BOOKS: Wide Eyed in La-La Land

Paul Theroux takes a witty, amiable look at Los Angeles

Dazzling in its diversity, sprawling across more than 1, 000 square miles, Los Angeles is not unlike the elephant of the fable that puzzled the blind men . How can one possdibly define a place that gave the world Mickey Mouse and Marilyn Monroe, the Watts riots and the Mansion murders, not to mention the kosher enchilada? Los Angeles is a metropolis of 85 cities with no "center of gravity", as Peter Theroux writes in one of the witty, observant little essays that make up Translating LA (Norton; 271 pages; $21). Its user- unfriendly downtown center resembles Gertrude Stein's famous description...

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