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Who are L.A.'s greatest?

January 12, 2010 | 11:46 am


L.A. Times columnist Steve Lopez is on the hunt for the city's most admirable Angelenos. Specifically, he says, he wants to find the "all-time best do-gooders, mensches and sweethearts."

While a book by a do-gooder sounds, I'm afraid, like a bad idea, aren't novelists, in their own way, doing  good? Doesn't it take a mensch-like honor and integrity to hold a mirror up to society -- or one's self -- and publish it in a book? Even if stories don't feed the hungry or shelter the wretched, can't we say they nourish our hearts and minds, that they enrich our culture?

OK, that's a little much. But.

The fact is that writers are an essential part of Southern California. From Helen Hunt Jackson's "Ramona," in 1884, which lured Easterners with its idyllic vision of the Southland, to the bankrupt paradise of Bret Easton Ellis' "Less Than Zero," published 101 years later, Angelenos have invented and reinvented the city through their prose. We think of F. Scott Fitzgerald as quintessentially New York, but even he came to L.A.  -- to Hollywood -- to write.

Wouldn't it be a shame if there were no writers on Lopez's list? Who would you nominate?

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photos: Left, a file photo of F. Scott Fizgerald in Hollywood in 1939. Right, Bret Easton Ellis in West Hollywood in 2008. Credit: Barbara Davis / Los Angeles Times