City of Fallen Angels

Published October 13, 2015

 

A Victorian gentleman, when in pursuit of carnal pleasure, had recourse to something called a “sporting guide,” a private guidebook to a city’s houses of vice. Liz Goldwyn’s first novel, Sporting Guide: Los Angeles, 1897 (Regan Arts), revives this underground form, vividly evoking a young City of Angels very fallen indeed. The writer, artist, and filmmaker happens to be a member of a Hollywood dynasty—Goldwyn is the G in MGM—and spent years in her hometown’s libraries and university archives researching this work of “time travel.” The result melds the dreamlike monologues of madams, macs, slumlords, and johns with historical notes on everything from sexual hygiene to the effect of electricity on a woman’s complexion. From laudanum-scented brothels to rough dollar “cribs” and the dark corners of city parks, Goldwyn’s sensual, sordid account exudes a rich nostalgia for a city where “one could be forgotten or build their own dreams.”