Review: West of Eden


I hadn’t realized that Jean Stein’s West of Eden was such a recent release.  I checked it out of the LA Public Library‘s e-book collection to try that out and assumed that it was an older book.

Eden is essentially a set of interviews about key players in Los Angeles’s past.  I mean that there is no explicit narrator’s voice or textual context.  The whole book is composed of transcribed snippets of interviews laced into these discussions.  The compositions are deft, which provides Stein’s narrative voice.

Reading the interviews rather than hearing them in a narrator-free documentary gave me a sense of distance from the events being described.  Some of these events are detailed stories of chaotic LA parties, which makes the absence of immediacy pleasantly dissonant.  Drinking stories on the page are different than in a secluded bar, though the implications flow both ways. The overall effect is an unusual reading experience to say the least.

While I found this to be an interesting way to understand these figures – and the figures are fascinating – I think I need more context to really understand the significance of them. I’m still looking for more conventional histories of LA.


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