Benjamin strong on Richard Lange's Dead Boys
by Richard Lange
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To paraphrase the compliment Joan Didion paid Fat City, Leonard Gardner’s classic 1969 novel set in Stockton, California, Richard Lange has got it right about Los Angeles. Dead Boys, his debut story collection, depicts average Southland life with unfaltering exactitude— the doughnut shop–cum-hangout, the sun’s merciless routine, Spanglish, and the disconsolateness of the carless. Such meticulously drawn commonplace scenery is remarkable in itself. But what’s most impressive about Lange’s tales is how his LA bypasses the usual accounts of nihilism and dystopia to signify instead the hard-luck optimism of the losers who are drawn to it.
Lange’s down-and-outs daydream endlessly, but their fantasies are grounded. A typical ambition is middle-class stability. That’s what the parolee wants in “Long Lost,” when
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