Elsewhere - excerpt
Bertolt Brecht, “Hollywood Elegies”
The village of Hollywood was planned according to the notion
People in these parts have of heaven. In these parts
They have come to the conclusion that God
Requiring a heaven and a hell, didn’t need to
Plan two establishments but
Just the one: heaven. It
Serves the unprosperous, unsuccessful
By the sea stand the oil derricks. Up the canyons
The gold prospectors’ bones lie bleaching. Their sons
Built the dream factories of Hollywood.
The four cities
Are filled with the oily smell
The city is named after the angels
And you meet angels on every hand.
They smell of oil and wear golden pessaries
And, with blue rings round their eyes
Feed the writers in their swimming pools every morning.
Beneath the green pepper trees
The musicians play the whore, two by two
With the writers. Bach
Has written a Strumpet Voluntary. Dante wriggles
His shrivelled bottom.
The angels of Los Angeles
Are tired out with smiling. Desperately
Behind the fruit stalls of an evening
They buy little bottles
Containing sex odours.
Above the four cities the fighter planes
Of the Defense Department circle at a great height
So that the stink of greed and poverty
Shall not reach them.
Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956), escaping the Nazis, moved to Los Angeles in 1941, where he became part of a German exile community that included, among many others, Thomas Mann, Arnold Schoenberg, and Alfred Döblin—unimaginable in the land of Mickey Rooney and Mickey Mouse. He left in 1947, after testifying before the House Un-American Activities committee, in what has come to be considered a classic befuddlement of a righteous bureaucracy.
In the late 1930s, Charles Reznikoff—who otherwise almost never left New York—spent two years in Hollywood, ostensibly working as a screenwriter for his childhood friend, the producer Albert Lewin. Reznikoff had nothing to do and writes of watching the flies on his desk. One of the poems in his sequence “Autobiography: Hollywood” reads: