Best L.A. Novel Ever: T. C. Boyle's The Tortilla Curtain vs. Hector Tobar's The Tattooed Soldier, Round 1
The Tattooed Soldier, by a mudslide. Tobar's novel is heavy, but not heavy-handed. The immigrants of his Los Angeles bring their pasts with them, and those histories play out among the riots and the gangbangers of the 1990s. History creates the present, but the present looks a lot different from the past. There's plenty of social commentary in The Tattooed Soldier, but it's hidden beneath the lives of its antagonists, who came here and discovered a city not quite what they'd imagined:
Years ago, when Antonio lived in Guatemala, he had an electric idea of Los Angeles. It was a place of vibrant promises, with suntanned women in bikinis and men carrying ice chests brimming with beer. It was a city of handsome, fit young people, all with bounce in their step. Long before he set foot in this country, Antonio felt that he knew California because he'd seen it come to life over and over again on his television set. In Antonio's homeland, the words "Los Angeles" sparkled, like sunlight glimmering off a mountain lake.
What he finds isn't quite that. What he finds is Los Angeles.
The winner: The Tattooed Soldier