It seems to me, actually, that there are four—or, anyway, at least four—lights in L.A. To begin with, there’s the cruel, actinic light of late July. Its glare cuts piteously through the general shabbiness of Los Angeles. Second comes the nostalgic, golden light of late October. It turns Los Angeles into El Dorado, a city of fool’s gold. It’s the light William Faulkner—in his story “Golden Land”—called “treacherous unbrightness.” It’s the light the tourists come for—the light, to be more specific, of unearned nostalgia. Third, there’s the gunmetal-gray light of the months between December and July. Summer in Los Angeles doesn’t begin until mid-July. In the months before, the light can be as monotonous as Seattle’s. Finally comes the light, clear as stone-dry champagne, after a full day of rain. Everything in this light is somehow simultaneously particularized and idealized: each perfect, specific, ideal little tract house, one beside the next. And that’s the light that breaks hearts in L.A.
D.J. Waldie spits hot truth flames