Multifaceted poet and author Braverman (Wonders of the West, 1993, etc.) renounces her native Los Angeles for rural upstate New York in a series of wry, trenchant geography lessons.
“Fusion City,” the first essay in this collection, describes the author’s upbringing as a poor welfare kid in late-1950s LA, before it became “the destination city,” famous for film and media. In a pithy pronouncement characteristically stripped of sentimentality, Braverman writes, “Our Los Angeles was where you went after divorce and scandal, bankruptcy, foreclosure, imminent starvation, bad health, and personal exile.” Subsequent chapters return to this squalid, scintillating city, but only in memory. In 1994, she fled the West Coast with her husband and teenaged daughter to live for six years in a fabulously spacious old farmhouse in the punishing snow belt at the base of the Allegheny Mountains. There, as she records in six “transmissions” to her old hometown, she reinvented herself as a gardener astonished by the change of seasons, a protector of the four deer that frequented her property in spite of hunters. “Transmission to Los Angeles #3” is a meditation on female friends who also left LA, for more fulfilling pursuits. “Escaping Los Angeles: Uncle Irving’s Advice” and “Hunting and Trapping Aunt Sarah” channel the author’s Russian-Jewish ancestors, who came to the Promised Land via Ellis Island. In “The Collective Voice of Los Angeles Speaks: Marilyn Monroe,” Braverman allows the “icon, oracle and prophet” to define the phenomenon of “personal history fusing with the sanctity of fame”; it’s the book’s least personal and satisfying piece. “P.S. House for Sale” is a longwinded, tongue-in-cheek realtor’s ad for the author’s East Coast farmhouse. Braverman now lives in San Francisco.
An absorbing chronicle of a personal journey with broader implications.