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Nina Revoyr on Power and Privilege in Old/New L.A.

Nina Revoyr on Class, Power, and Privilege in the New/Old Los Angeles

Probing the Secret World of Old Money Angelenos

By Steph Cha

Any Nina Revoyr novel is a cause for celebration, and her latest, A Student of History, is assured and marvelous, an absorbing rags among riches tale about a broke USC grad student who finds himself swept off his feet by Los Angeles’s insular, powerful .01% class. It’s a contemporary novel that feels like an instant classic, with the wry tragedy of The House of Mirth, the sinister glamour of Sunset Boulevard, and a fresh, original point of view. I spoke to Nina over email about her new book and money and power in Los Angeles (yes, I asked her about the college admissions scandal).

Steph Cha: I think because I came to your work through Southland, I find myself approaching and evaluating your books with crime on my mind. A Student of History isn’t really a crime novel, but honestly, it’s not not a crime novel either. Were you thinking about it in these terms as you were writing it?

Nina Revoyr: I was thinking more about the archetypal stories of class, like The Great Gatsby and Great Expectations. I probably also had a bit of Sunset Boulevard on my mind, particularly in how Mrs. W— dresses Rick in expensive clothes. But I do always try to create a sense of momentum, a sense of “what will happen next?”—whether in books that have structural elements of mystery, like Southland or The Age of Dreaming, or books that build up to a climactic event or resolution, like Wingshooters or Lost Canyon. Story matters, entertaining the reader matters, especially if you’re dealing—as I do—with issues of race and class and history, which can feel weighty. Once Rick volunteers to help Fiona Morgan make sense of an incident from the past, he does become a sort of detective. I’d argue, though, that even Gatsby and Great Expectations deal with mystery, as well as crime—crimes that are covered up, or crimes that make the central action possible. Read the full interview at CrimeReads.

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