Cultural, sometimes labyrinthine, anthology-survey of the ever-changing entity of incorporated counties called Greater Los Angeles. This is a fascinating but mixed bag whose variety works against sustained interest. Readers caught by one aspect of L.A.-- as told by Eve Babitz, Alexander Cockburn, Mike Davis, Lynell George, Thomas S. Hines, Jeremy Larner, Ruben Martinez, David Reid, Carolyn See, or David Thomson--will not necessarily be absorbed with the other writers' comments. Right at the start, many readers will flounder in the wave of unfamiliar names, streets, districts, and buildings that washes in with Cockburn's overview of the Pacific Rim and his subsequent neighborhood-by-neighborhood trek that ends in a tour of ``the cruel frenzies of Downtown.'' Davis picks up on the loss of electoral power among minorities through gerrymandering and the ``new Industrial peonage.'' See has lively personal memories of her varied minority husbands who were interested in ``melting'' into the racial landscape by tying in with her, while Babitz writes well of the effects of yoga on her love life. George's ``City of Specters'' reviews her ties with death among blacks that gather into a depressive sense of doom she calls ``generational,'' adding that ``the concept of life has never been more ephemeral, the scope of a life-span more abstract.'' Editor Reid takes on exotic religions, focusing on Krishnamurti. Hines surveys L.A.'s outstanding architects (Irving Gill, Frank Lloyd Wright, Frank Gehry), while Thomson gives us a tour of Mulholland Drive/Highway as ``Marilyn Monroe, 50 miles long, lying on her side on a ridge of crumbling rock, the crest of the Santa Monica mountains, with chaparral, wildflowers, and snakes writhing over her body.'' The book's one masterpiece is novelist/screenwriter Jeremy Larner's ``Rack's Rules,'' about the morals of power in ``Movieland.'' Sour and rarely sweet, most vital as memoir and fantasy.