In “Love in L.A.” by Dagoberto Gilb, the protagonist returns to his car after speaking with the woman whose car he hit. “Back in his car he took a moment or two to feel both proud and sad...

In “Love in L.A.” by Dagoberto Gilb, the protagonist returns to his car after speaking with the woman whose car he hit. “Back in his car he took a moment or two to feel both proud and sad about his performance.” What does this mean? What performance has Jake realized? What kind of character is Jake?

Dagoberto Gilb writes in his essay "On Writing 'Love in L.A.'" that he identifies with the main character of this story. What do you think Gilb mean by this? How does/did he identify with this character?

Expert Answers
rareynolds eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Jake is always imagining different roles for himself. At the beginning of the story, he daydreams about having a different car, and about how a new car would lead to a new lifestyle, one of "[e]xotic colognes, plush, dark nightclubs, maitais and daiquiris, necklaced ladies in satin gowns, misty and sexy like in a tequila ad." Jake conflates this daydream with the girl in the Toyota -- he is instantly on the make with her, pretending to be first a musician, then an actor. His talk with her is like his daydreaming about the car, in that he is constantly trying to improvise a better or more interesting life for himself. In fact, he simply lies to the girl: his insurance information is fake, and even his license plates, which the girl takes down, are not his own. So when he feels "both proud and sad" about his performance, in a way that describes his whole approach to life. The proud part is that, through his ability to imagine himself in these different lives, he is able to have this moment on the freeway with the girl; the sad part is that none of his "performance," especially his conversation with her, is real.

I think Gilb identifies with his protagonist because 1) like the protgonist, Gilb spent many years pretending to be a writer, or imagining what it would be like to earn a living as a writer -- like the man in the story, he too is both "proud and sad" about his writing: proud of his talent but conflicted about choosing writing as a career. He writes, "They were parallel dream worlds, one where I made a good living as a carpenter, another where I made a living as a writer. Most thought the writer one was fantasy. I didn't, but then I didn't know any better."

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