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Arts and Entertainment

LA Times Bookfest report: The LA lit panel

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Moderator: Janet Fitch
Panelists: (from left to right) Chris Abani, Steve Erickson, Michelle Huneven, Jim Krusoe

Two transplants (Abani from Nigeria and Krusoe from the midwest) and two natives (Erickson, Huneven) take on what it means to be a writer in Los Angeles. Erickson and Huneven were on a similar panel last year. We culled a few of this year's best (and lamest) quips.

The high points:
Chris Abani says, "The idea of being a writer in LA is ridiculous." At parties he'll say, "I'm writing books," (implied puzzled pause) "You know, like DVDs but with pages."

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Steve Erickson: "LA has a certain metaphorical identity," for Angelenos and people living elsewhere. "Metaphorically and geographically Los Angeles is as far as we can go." There is an undercurrent, he says, of a conflict between utopianism and apocalypse. "There's something about that conceit that appeals to us — we find it galling that the world might end somewhere else."

Michelle Huneven, on whether she'd like her books bought by Hollywood: "E.L. Doctorow said that the dream thing is to have your books optioned and the movies never made."

Chris Abani: "A sense of place is always imagined.... LA, more than any other city, can become that imagined city."

Steve Erickson agreed: "Los Angeles is a particular blank salte that you can reinvent."

The low points: Jim Krusoe says "Writing is becoming shallower. It doesn't apply to my students, but it applies to everything I see," which means to us that he's looking in all the wrong places. "Los Angeles and NY are the only two cities in the country that generate myth," he says at another point. As much as we're boosters of LA, we think that there's some myth that's come out of Chicago, Philadelphia, Miami, Washington, Texas (we know, a state, not a city), New Orleans... after this we put down our pen every time Mr. Krusoe started talking.