It is a brave writer who tries to put a fresh spin on Los Angeles. Not simply because it has been done countless times before, but mostly because it is impossible to do without lapsing into clichés. In their fascination with California, British writers especially are spectacularly good at getting it wrong – producing half–cocked articles full of grotesque stereotypes. Usually, too, they write from an ill–founded sense of superiority that tries to pass itself off as clever observation. Fortunately, Peter Theroux is neither British nor reliant on the cheap shot. He has produced an intriguing and fresh portrait of the city about which everybody has opinions but which few truly understand. Translating LA cool–headedly appraises the everyday life of ordinary people on the lunatic fringe of the Western world.
LA has an extreme personality – both anarchic and conservative. According to F Scott Fitzgerald, it is understandable ‘only dimly, and in flashes’. Theroux’s work as a translator and tutor on an adult literacy programme does not bring him into contact with the city’s glamour element. His is not the