Colin Marshall sits down in the Los Angeles Central Library’s Maguire Gardens with Nathan Masters, writer interested in all things Los Angeles, especially the history of the city, about which he writes as a representative of L.A. as Subject, hosted by the USC Libraries, for KCET and Los Angeles Magazine. They discuss how he regarded the distant downtown Los Angeles skyline while growing up in the Orange County town of Anaheim; the changing ways the county of his youth has regarded itself relative to Los Angeles; how far back you can go into the history of southern California and still have it bolster your understanding of the place, even to the era of allegedly “sleepy little village” of Mexican Los Angeles; why observers have insisted that this city has had little interest its own history; how he didn’t need to spend time away from Los Angeles to appreciate it; the debate over whether actual orange groves inspired the “Orange” in Orange County, and his grandfather’s home-movie footage of the uprooting of said groves; why observers have insisted that this city stands atop a desert; the competing boosting and demythologizing narratives; where he finds the greatest historical surprises, especially in the “old, weird” American 19th century; why knowing your history might get you driving more safely down the Arroyo Seco Parkway; how each foreign culture engages with Los Angeles in a different way, and how Los Angeles has no one way of accepting, absorbing, or digesting these influences; the seeming impossibility, given all this, of writing an overarching narrative of the city; the eternal struggle here between optimism and nostalgia; readers’ love of stories of “lost geography”; the creek bed hidden in Koreatown; his own love of stories about trees; and the elusive stories of history’s ordinary Angelenos.
- From my interview archive: disgraced science writer Jonah Lehrer (2008 and 2009)
- From my interview archive: economist and Marginal Revolutionary Tyler Cowen (2008 and 2009)
- Seoul Urbanism on TBS eFM’s Koreascape: The Destruction of Bamgol Village
- KCET Movies: Alfred Hitchcock’s (Non-Existent) Los Angeles
- From my interview archive: Charles Murray (2008), Jay Caspian Kang (2012), and “the Great Liberal Freakout of 2017”