Los Angeles Book Land, 1939: Chandler, Fante, Huxley, Isherwood, West

There must have been something special in the air that year, as the great Los Angeles novels tumbled onto the library shelves like sweet summer peaches. 1939 was the year of Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep, John Fante’s Ask the Dust, Aldous Huxley’s After Many A Summer Dies the Swan and The Day of the Locust by Nathanael West—four utterly original portraits of Los Angeles, each of them revealing the humor, darkness, romance, pastiche, cynicism and eccentricity of the town and its astonishing people.

The writers congregated in the heart of Hollywood, drinking orange wine in the back room of Stanley Rose’s book shop, running up tabs at Musso & Frank, pestering their agents, experimenting with the screen trade, flirting with bookstore clerks, expanding their minds at esoteric temples in the hills.

Among them, the newly arrived Christopher Isherwood (Goodbye To Berlin, 1939) was drinking it all in, jotting notes in his journal about this seductive “city without privacy, where neighbors share each other’s lawns and look into each other’s bedrooms. The whole place like a world’s fair, quite new and already partly in ruins.”

Join us on a new Esotouric excursion through Downtown and Hollywood, celebrating the literary and cultural history of an incredible literary year, with visits to time capsule places that figure in the lives of the authors and in their books. From the new Union Station to a scandal-wracked City Hall, from forgotten speakeasies of old Skid Row to fantastical castles in the sky, from star-studded opening nights to mornings after in the gutter, to Larry Edmunds, the last great Hollywood bookstore standing, we’ll go out in search of the ghosts of that magical year, as we map Los Angeles Book Land, 1939.