Observing Los Angeles

LA is a city of 'dickheads,' says Brit observer

The Farmer's Daughter on Fairfax Avenue. Photo: Anywhereeverywhere.com

The British novelist and journalist Will Self dropped in to our fair city this summer and collected a fresh set of outsider observations about LA — and you know how we all love reading those. The base for Self's opening scene is the breakfast table at the Farmer's Market motel on Fairfax. He's with his sons, so we can assume the unmentioned backstory trope is something like vacationing writer has epiphany, pens thin think piece to justify writeoffs/fill column. Self's piece for New Statesman.com carries the title The awful cult of the talentless hipster has taken over.

Near the top, he tries to get the motel to turn down the music while he eats his breakfast, but fails. Enter the epiphany:

When I reassume my seat, looking frazzled and out of sorts, one of my sons bellows sympathy over the shingly sonic backwash, and I say: “Really, it’s OK. After all, it’s my generation that’s to blame for this bullshit culture.”

And we are, aren’t we, us fiftysomethings? We’re the pierced and tattooed, shorts-wearing, skunk-smoking, OxyContin-popping, neurotic dickheads who’ve presided over the commoditisation of the counterculture; we’re the ones who took the avant-garde and turned it into a successful rearguard action by the flying columns of capitalism’s blitzkrieg; we’re the twats who sat there saying that there was no distinction between high and popular culture, and that adverts should be considered as an art form; we’re the idiots who scrumped the golden apples from the Tree of Jobs until our bellies swelled and we jetted slurry from our dickhead arseholes – slurry we claimed was “cultural criticism.”


Comrade Stalin once observed that “Quantity has a quality all its own,” and the sheer quantity of dickheads now wandering bemusedly around the world represents, in my view, a big shift in cultural dynamics. In Los Angeles, arguably their Mecca, to be a dickhead is unremarkable...Nowadays someone who sticks old agricultural implements on the wall of a Los Angeles motel regards himself as on a par with Michelangelo; moreover, since all their friends are dickheads, too, no one is about to disabuse them. Hell, on Planet Dickhead just turning up the trip-hop can be a work of unalloyed genius.

Speculative question for the audience: if the Farmer's Daughter had in fact just turned down the music, so the visiting writer-critic could eat his waffles in peace, would the column slash epiphany slash cultural criticism have been 1) Completely different, 2) 50% different and 50% the same, or 3) exactly the same?

One of Self's books, the 2010 issue "Walking to Hollywood," is billed as "an extraordinary triptych in which Will Self burrows down through the intersections of time, place and psyche to explore some of our deepest fears and anxieties with his characteristic fearlessness and edgy humor."

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