Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Morning Reading: "on the hills like Gods together"

Over at Critical Mass, the blog of the National Book Critics Circle Board of Directors, Rigoberto Gonzalez interviews Daniel Olivas, editor of Latinos in Lotusland.

As Gary Keller (Bilingual Press' director) and I kicked around ideas for naming the anthology, he suggested that we use a nickname for Los Angeles. The city had been disparaged by many a writer (usually those who moved here from elsewhere) with such nicknames as La-La Land, El-Lay, etc. One such nickname is "Lotusland" which harkens back to the mythological race of lotus (or "lotos") eaters "represented by Homer as living on the fruit of the lotus and living in a state of dreamy forgetfulness and idleness" according to The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary. Thus, the term has entered the English language to mean "a place or state of idle pleasure and luxury, contentment and self-indulgence." (Websters New Millennium Dictionary of English.) So, some clever wags have pinned it to Los Angeles' lapel. Similarly, as William Safire noted in a New York Times essay:

"La-La Land is a play on the initials L.A., perhaps influenced by Lotos-land in 'The Lotos-Eaters,' a poem by Tennyson: 'In the hollow Lotos-land to live and lie reclined / On the hills like Gods together.' In his 1941 novel, The Last Tycoon, F. Scott Fitzgerald had a character describe Hollywood as 'a mining town in lotus land.'"

So, I use the name "Lotusland" ironically because, as I note in my introduction: "[N]otwithstanding the fact that the characters who populate this anthology may have feasted on the City of Angel's lotus flowers, they do not live in blissful oblivion and they certainly have not forgotten who they are."

Click here for the rest. You may have to scroll down - but linger as you do. Critical Mass, frequently updated, is a wonderful read.

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