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There was an Italian woman in my building I knew only as Cousin Lizzie. She agreed to teach me for fifty cents an hour. To Cooder, writing was not unlike his approach to songwriting. American folk music in itself has origins in a kind of oral tradition. Just as he has a knack for preserving and exploring American roots music, he managed to do the same with language in Los Angeles Stories. For more about Ry, go here for a nice sampling of his music throughout his career. Black History Month: Creation for Liberation.

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Showing Rating details. More filters. Sort order. Oct 14, Tosh rated it it was amazing. The stars are lined up perfectly for musicians who write books. Some of my favorite books are by rock n' roll people i. Patti Smith's "Just kids," and Nick Cave's novels. What you get is a series of snapshots of life in different neighborhoods of Los Angeles, and some of these places don't exist anymore - but yet they live via Cooder's The stars are lined up perfectly for musicians who write books.

What you get is a series of snapshots of life in different neighborhoods of Los Angeles, and some of these places don't exist anymore - but yet they live via Cooder's writing. After reading this book I wanted to rush off and locate volumes on Los Angeles history and its tall tales.


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All narratives are strong, and very Noir in its approach and the way it looks at urban life. Money is tight, the fear of communism is in the air, and more bad times are just around the corner - yet the eccentricity of the characters are incredibly endearing - even though they're very low-level criminal types or even murderers. Nevertheless "Los Angeles Stories" is a classic of urban history research and fiction.

After each story and while reading them, I was consistently googling to see if they actually exist or not. Some do and some don't and that's all part of the fun. View 1 comment. Jan 11, Jim rated it it was amazing Shelves: short-stories , los-angeles , noir. These stories, set between and the s, are not only great L. Noir, but they sing with their own unique brand of chicken skin music.

John Lee Hooker puts in an appearance, as does Charlie Parker. And the stories are rife with musical references: Four Chinese girls were sitting at the corner table laughing and drinking. I knew the place, the Zenda Ballroom, on Seventh and Figueroa.

Los Angeles Stories (City Lights Noir) | Portland Book Review

Tetsu Bessho and his Nisei Serenaders played there every Monday night. Jimmy Araki, the sax player, he was sharp. Joe Sakai was cute. The girls spoke English with a lot of hip slang, like musicians use, and as far as I could tell they were no different from any other American girls, except they were Chinese. In fact, Cooder has a real ear for the race and ethnicity of his characters, from black musicians to Mexican Pachucos to white trailer trash to Chinese cooks.

Born in Santa Monica, he also has a great sense of place. Los Angeles Stories consists of eight tales, one better than the other. Insofar as I know, this is the only fiction he ever wrote; but I hope it is not the last. Too much, and fate pays a call.

La Visita, my grandmother called it. In my humble opinion, Ry Cooder is even a better writer. Believe it! His prose, in turn, is rich in sound — echoes of blues, jazz, boleros — in this superb debut of tales set in L. Cooder writes with Chandler-esque pepper and an eye for c "On his records, Ry Cooder specializes in the talking blues, modernizing the struggle and humanity in his source materials — folk and public-domain covers, the rhythms of Tex-Mex and Chicano culture — with narrative grit and immediacy.

Cooder writes with Chandler-esque pepper and an eye for character. A dental technician plays killer steel guitar; a guy who collects info for the city directory is an accidental shamus. John Lee Hooker gets a cameo, and at the end of one story, a ghost hangs around his garage, listening to 78s. Cooder shouldn't stop making records. Jan 17, Lostaccount rated it it was ok.

Quickly grew bored with these attempts at noir stories which all seemed the same, a murder, crime, "dame" in trouble etc. Was very little to distinguish the narrator of each story set in Los Angeles of more than half a century ago. The writing was muddled at times and confusing, especially with all that Spanish thrown in. I didn't have a clue until after I'd read them that they were written by a jazz musician. Lots of jazz stuff in there plus corny old-fashioned noir style dialogue and hard-nose Quickly grew bored with these attempts at noir stories which all seemed the same, a murder, crime, "dame" in trouble etc.

Lots of jazz stuff in there plus corny old-fashioned noir style dialogue and hard-nosed prose which only half worked most of the time - it was all a bit self-conscious. By the third story I felt I was getting nothing back. You know that painful feeling you get when you're slogging through a book just to finish it but not enjoying it and really want to stop? That's how this book made me feel. Nov 19, Ginny rated it it was amazing. It took me a while to understand the way in which these stories are connected, but once I figured it out I thought this was a fascinating, imaginative book.

Mar 02, Sam Quinones rated it it was amazing. Lively writing and curious plots make for a solid collection of stories by my guitar hero of years ago. Cameos by folks like John Lee Hooker spice up the enchilada along the way. Read it, don't leave it behind! May 14, GlenK rated it really liked it Shelves: short-story-novella , literature. The stories are variable collections of stories almost always are but all are full of well-described life and characters. These two read like miniature noir novels, with passive protagonists, femme fatales, corruption, and sweet revenge.

View 2 comments. Jul 15, Ted rated it it was amazing Shelves: automobileculture , fiction , amer-west , redneck-noir , lit , short-stories , ufos , ellay , ca-l-i-fornia. An excellent collection of short stories Influenced by Nathanael West, steel guitars, Raymond Chandler, and old cars I hope he publishes more of these Sep 30, Rick Reno rated it really liked it.

Cool stories, well-told Some readers have been disappointed not to see the same virtuosity in his writing words as his writing music ; I disagree. He's a great storyteller either way and, if the genre -- the street vernacular of the southwest in the fifties -- isn't your cup of tea, that's not his shortcoming. It might not be great literature, but they are good stories well told! Nov 01, patty rated it it was amazing Shelves: fiction , read A wild romp of interweaving hepcat stories from midcentury Los Angeles.

Aug 18, Tucker rated it really liked it. Not much of a review here If you like Ry's music, you'll almost certainly enjoy the book; these stories are so like his songs. If not, then not. Sep 08, Oriana marked it as to-read Shelves: to-read-soon. Holy shit yes. Jun 08, Gregory added it. Went to see Ry Cooder at a local theater here in town and about 2 weeks later I did a search on my search engine and I found out he wrote a book! And it's a work of fiction, no less!

I was so surprised I had to check the name twice to see if it was indeed the musician and a fine musician, at that Mr Ry Cooder. I dove into the book as I am great fan of Mr Cooder's music. I read the first story and the voice was so convincing: written in the first person by a City Of Los Angeles employee collecti Went to see Ry Cooder at a local theater here in town and about 2 weeks later I did a search on my search engine and I found out he wrote a book!

I read the first story and the voice was so convincing: written in the first person by a City Of Los Angeles employee collecting names for the city directory in The voice is so convincing and the details so well written that I had to check the publishing info again to see when he wrote it!

I can say the entire book all short stories is like this. It is a marvelous creation.


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  • I cannot praise it highly enough, and not because I am a fan of Mr Cooder, but because Iam a fan of good writing. Feb 24, Rosalind rated it it was amazing. From Old Bunker Hill to shabby Santa Monica, characters down on their luck or just plain foolish fall into noir's twisted web in the changing Los Angeles of the s and 50s. This collection of short stories is written in the lingo of the era, and musician-author Ry Cooder populates the stories with musicians and night clubs.

    If you're hungry for interesting stories that break out from the same-ol'-same-ol', that harken back to the noir of times past, "Los Angeles Stories" is your ticket. Jul 31, Brian Yatman rated it liked it. These tales are dryly funny, meandering, full of old-time hipster slang, and crammed with period detail. I really enjoyed them. If some of these stories come to less than definite conclusions, it might be more useful for the reader to look on them less as plot-driven than as loose, spicy jams that fade out before they wear out their welcome.

    Don't sweat it, the band'll kick in again soon. Feb 16, Sara rated it it was ok Shelves: fiction. I read this book as part of my book club, definitely not my thing.

    Los Angeles Stories

    But it was a fascinating glimpse into what my neighborhood looked like 70 years ago, and for that I thank it. Aug 23, Paul rated it it was ok. This book sounded good based on the blurb on the back, but for some reason the author the outstanding musician, Ry Cooder chose to have all of the stories in the 40's and 50's, and I didn't find any of them that good. Aug 04, Dewey rated it liked it Shelves: the-americans. He also has a surprisingly varied solo career invested in many roots genres, notably a lot of blues, played with a tinge of rock that is the only commonality binding them together as well as Cooders' unmistakable voice during a vocal number.

    Today, he is well known for being the mastermind behind the Buena Vista Social Club, some of the best Latin Jazz made in the last twenty years from musicians whose musical activities were put on the shelf after Fidel Castro's revolution. But it seems that whenever a musician tries his hand at writing, the game changes, and that no matter how good a musician is, those creative energies responsible for such wonderful music are just unable to provide an equally qualitative counterpart in writing, a curse that has been around since Jim Morrison was alive though I maintain that had he lived longer and had more time to perfect his craft, he could have been a great poet.

    The description on the back of the book begins with the words: "What's that you say?

    Section(s)

    Nothing exciting ever happens in Los Angeles? The stories take place from to the late 's, and are detective stories of a sort that resemble long lost cousins of a Chester Himes novel, only Himes' style was much more engrossing and much less dry. What I didn't like was that the stories themselves were indistinguishable, and seemed reshuffled in a way.

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    They could probably stand alone much better were they to have been published in magazines, but, to put it bluntly, Ramones songs are more easily differentiated than these stories are when placed together into what comes off the printing press as empty prose meshed around a bit. The fact that the great San Francisco institution City Lights Books released these stories only increased my sense of disappointment. First, Cooders' resurrection of the atmosphere of that time is very well done, and it isn't difficult to picture oneself walking through a Los Angeles in the 50's while reading the pages.

    Second, his sense of nostalgia is very strong, powerful enough to stir anyone's curiosity, which is remarkable given that the 50's were so provincial and boring; still, I suspect that this nostalgia may only apply to white people if the maxim about white people being the only ones who want to travel back in time is true. Third - and my favourite aspect - Cooder opens the floodgates holding back his interest in music and unleashes it upon the pages, even featuring a few famous jazz and blues musicians.

    However bad the stories ended up, at least it can be said that Cooder had a fun time writing them. None of this, however, saves Los Angeles Stories or the city Cooder intends for them to represent. At best, they can serve as temporary satiation for proud Los Angeles people and for people who for some reason wish that they could live in the 50's. But that's it. Unless a friend wants to give it for Christmas, or one is a hardcore City Lights fan who has to read their entire ouevre, I cannot think of any other reason why anybody would want to read these stories.

    Oct 25, Amy rated it liked it Shelves: arcs-or-review-copy. Los Angeles was the Land of the Brighter Day, something good was bound to turn up. While the stories are nominally linked, the variety is enormous: mariachi players, park prophets, backalley dentists, tailors, and disc jockeys are all introduced in their native milieu.

    Set in the first half of the twen "I had made up my mind to quit worrying. Set in the first half of the twentieth century, these stories are based on the inner life of the inner city. This is not postcard or travel agency Los Angeles; there is no glamour or celebrities to dress it up. Even the weather doesn't seem to cooperate with stereotype: fog and rain are as frequent as bar brawls. The characters are the faceless many that work off the books, just trying to get by while the city appears as a predatory character, breathing and pulsing, foiling any attempts at the good life.

    The collection is also an excellent geography text to significant Los Angeles locations--Griffith Park, Chinatown, Little Tokyo, Union Station, Bunker Hill, and Hollenbeck Park all serve as backdrops, and Cooder seems to know the streets and back alleys very well. Cocktail bars and bowling alleys are among the seedy gathering places of the working class and small time criminals that Cooder writes about and who occasionally cross tracks with each other.

    My favorite was "Who do you know that I don't? Cooder creates a world of layaway payments, shiny and finned cars, and musicians desperate to wear a good suit but not eager to pay.