Your favorite alternative Los Angeles novels?
March 20, 2011 6:33 PM   Subscribe

What indie/experimental/small-press/"weird" novels set in Los Angeles would you recommend for an "Alternative L.A. Literature" list?

I'm working on an article pitch: "A List of Alternative L.A. Literature". I'd like to fill it with formally adventurous, non-hugely-known novels set in Los Angeles that avoid all the usual Los Angeles-y type trappings: bitter meditations on freeway traffic, bitter meditations on plastic surgery, bitter meditations on "The Industry", etc. Any favorites, MeFites?

(I ask this after having combed through the less specific threads here and here.)
posted by colinmarshall to Media & Arts (17 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Stealing the Elf King's Roses by Diane Duane. Only the beginning takes place in L.A.
posted by anaelith at 6:59 PM on March 20, 2011

"Expiration Date," by Tim Powers.

"Koot Parganas has stolen the ghost of Thomas Edison, preserved in a hidden glass vial. Now he's on the run through the dark underside of Los Angeles, among characters who extend their lives and enhance their power by catching and absorbing the ghosts of the recently dead."
posted by MonkeyToes at 7:09 PM on March 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

Sharp Teeth by Toby Barlow would definitely fit the bill.
posted by missjenny at 7:24 PM on March 20, 2011

Pretty much anything written by Francesca Lia Block takes place in Los Angeles, Dangerous Angels, in particular. It's like one big love letter to the city.
posted by corey flood at 7:44 PM on March 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

Steve Erickson writes amazing books about LA. Zeroville is somewhat about movies, but Our Ecstatic Days and The Sea Came In At Midnight are just about crazy LA shit.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:45 PM on March 20, 2011

Seconding Steve Erickson. I also really like Dead Boys (short stories) and This Wicked World by Richard Lange, both of which are set in the decidedly non-glamorous, non-industry side of L.A./SoCal. (Disclaimer: he's a pal of mine, but I really do enjoy his writing on its own merits)
posted by scody at 8:43 PM on March 20, 2011

Bride of the Rat God by Barbara Hambly is a fantasy novel set in Hollywood in the 1920's.
posted by gudrun at 9:24 PM on March 20, 2011

The Blue Afternoon by William Boyd, Inside Daisy Clover by, Gavin Lambert, . And previously here. Novels set in Pasadena , as a bonus.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:47 PM on March 20, 2011

What about Ghost World?
posted by timpanogos at 9:48 PM on March 20, 2011

Well, this is taught in a USC class about LA literature, so maybe it's not so obscure, but several years ago I enjoyed Tropic of Orange by Karen Tei Yamashita. It has freeways and traffic, but it also has a wide range of characters, silly magical-realism-style coincidences, strong images, an unusual structured form, and a cheerful sense of the city.
posted by dreamyshade at 10:07 PM on March 20, 2011

This may not be all that alt any more (and I didn't read the other threads), but I would think Charles Bukowski should be on that list.
posted by hamandcheese at 11:07 PM on March 20, 2011

Weetzie Bat! It's a YA novel, but trust me. It's exactly what you're looking for.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 12:02 AM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

*****kinda spoilerish****

Thirding Steve Erickson. He's one of my favorite living authors, and both Our Ecstatic Days and The Sea Came in at Midnight are some of the best books written lately. Be aware, however, that the The Sea Came in at Midnight does feature a tsunami in Japan.
posted by OrangeDrink at 12:13 AM on March 21, 2011

Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned by Walter Mosley. This is actually a book of short stories, but follows a single protagonist, so I think it might work for your purposes.
posted by unsub at 9:52 AM on March 21, 2011

Oh, and there's a sequel, Walkin' the Dog, which I think is even more novel-like.
posted by unsub at 10:00 AM on March 21, 2011

Even though she is my sister,

My Liar is a good read on LA in the 80's
posted by silsurf at 12:04 PM on March 21, 2011

Steve Erickson's Amnesiascope pretty much perfectly matches the criteria you listed. Great book.

(I've recommended it at least a few times before on AskMe.)
posted by jayder at 4:06 PM on March 21, 2011

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