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The Long Disease: LA Stories

Fiona Hackett


The Long Disease: LA Stories

Fiona Hackett


When the time has come to appear in the Los Angeles Times newspaper, obituaries of ordinary people and their stories of the seemingly everyday read as remarkable. Each life merits a memoir of its very own, offering glimpses into California of the past century or so. Some arrived in LA with big dreams of ‘making it’ in Hollywood. Most, it seems, settled for the less extraordinary with more modest aspirations of, at the very least, settling down and living an American Dream. Perhaps living in California was enough? The title of this book - ‘The Long Disease’ - is an oblique reference to life itself. It is borrowed from the essay by 18th century satirical writer and poet Alexander Pope. In ‘Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot’ Pope refers to “this long disease, my life,” which in his case might have been literally true, since, in addition to being a dwarf and a hunchback, Pope is said to have suffered from many diseases during his lifetime. More recently, John Gregory Dunne’s memoir ‘Harp’ employed the phrase in the more metaphorical sense implied in the title of this book. Dunne’s ‘long disease’ is suggesting not simply that as soon as we are born, we are dying, but also that

life can, as he wrote, be ‘played on the dark keys’, not without its ups and downs. Happening to type ‘the long disease’ into Google, the long word ‘Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis’ appears. This turns out to be both the name of a disease and the longest word in the english language and the digression produces the very relevant Oxford English Dictionary definition of “a lung disease caused by inhaling very fine ash and sand dust.” Of California and those who settled there, Joan Didion wrote “Here is the last stop for all those

who come from somewhere else, for all those who drifted away from the cold and the past and the old ways. Here is where they are trying to find a new life style, trying to find it in the only places they know to look: the movies and the newspapers”. Inhaling their last breath of Los

Angeles’ ‘very fine ash and sand dust’, they have finally made it into the newspaper.


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The Long Disease: LA Stories  

The Long Disease: LA Stories  

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