(NEW EDITION) City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles Paperback – 4 Sep 2006
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Few books shed as much light on their subjects as this opinionated and original excavation of Los Angeles from the mythical debris of its past and future.
A history as fascinating as it is instructive.--Peter Ackroyd
Absolutely fascinating.--William Gibson
A history as fascinating as it is instructive. --Peter Ackroyd
Absolutely fascinating. --William Gibson
"Absolutely fascinating."--William Gibson
"Few books shed as much light on their subjects as this opinionated and original excavation of Los Angeles from the mythical debris of its past and future."--"San Francisco Examiner"
"A history as fascinating as it is instructive."--Peter Ackroyd, "The Times"
Absolutely fascinating. William Gibson
Few books shed as much light on their subjects as this opinionated and original excavation of Los Angeles from the mythical debris of its past and future. "San Francisco Examiner"
A history as fascinating as it is instructive. Peter Ackroyd, "The Times""
About the Author
MacArthur Fellow Mike Davis lives in San Diego. He is the author of many books including Ecology of Fear, The Monster at Our Door and Planet of Slums.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
As to the inaccuracy of his facts - I'd love to hear what he's wrong about. The picture he paints certainly reflects the LA I grew up in - the ponzi-like real estate development industry, the general disregard for the region's history, including the marginalization of the region's native "resident aliens", the monumental mismanagement of the city's downtown. You can call it all Marxist crap, but it you grew up in the unpleasant, incongruous, LaLaLand that sprouted as a result of the non-Marxist crap, this book might strike a chord with you.
It is a bit preachy, and the writing is not universally exceptional, but when it hits the mark, it hits the mark.
Interestingly, Davis is a Marxist, and I have not often come across mainstream works by Americans in that political tradition, and that in itself would, for some, make it worth reading. However, ultimately I was a little disappointed in the book in light of first having read Norman Klein's `The History of Forgetting: Los Angeles and the Erasure of Memory' (see review under that title).
In the end I find Davis's view unrelentingly bleak. He has no time for urban renewal projects, dismissing them as furthering the interests merely of the middle class and the powerful. Klein by contrast lives in a mixed suburb close to downtown (Angelino Heights) and is enthusiastic about the possibilities thrown up by his experiences there. Davis, I have read, lives in the uppermiddle class enclave of Pasadena.
I agree with Davis's thesis that empowerment and placing decision-making directly in the hands of the dispossessed will ultimately provide the way out, but I felt he was just a bit too dismissive (sneering? Perhaps too strong a word...) of the emergent black middle class, and the desire to escape the `flatlands' - the neighbourhoods in southern LA created through blatant racism and apartheid-like policies.
As for the new barrios of the San Fernando Valley, surely the whole community is ultimately going to have to be involved in finding solutions if the apocolypse is to be avoided. Occasionally I get the feeling Davis would prefer the `scorched earth' solution.
There is a lot to be learned from this book. As an outsider, I was astounded by the social geographic history of this city. Race covenants preventing people from ling in designated towns, suburbs, streets, houses were a stark form of apartheid. The brutality of the LAPD is equally as stark, and a good reminder to a person brought up on a steady diet of Hollywood sitcom and cop shows that reality is far uglier than the image.
Yet, the other global image of LA, as a hell-hole of crime and no-go ghettos (no go to outsiders) is scarily depicted as well. I did experience visiting an LA school in a tough neighbourhood, where armed guard security officers checked you in and out, and jail-like walls surrounded the campus (happily, once inside though, it was a very calm and normal environment). I am not blinkered about the awful side of LA, but I think Davis is altogether too nihilistic.
Nevertheles, I would highly recommend this book for a thought-provoking read
Although Davis is a leftist, he usually refrains from emotional rants, although it's safe to say he never met a person in a position of power that he liked. In any event, the excesses of LAPD have been too extreme for even an ardent conservative to defend. While outsiders think of LA as a bastion of liberalism, Davis describes how every aspect of the city is riddled by hypocrisy as Angelenos pursue selfish (and often racist) goals behind a facade of liberal rhetoric. The greatest flaw of this 1990 book is that its discussion of politics, focusing on the 70s and 80s, has become severely dated.
The seven chapters cover: (1) A history of LA intellectual thought, (2) evolution of the business elite from the 1840s to the 1980s, (3) the role of homeowners' associations as de facto municipal governments and their role of keeping renters and non-whites bottled up in certain neighborhoods, (4) the obsession with crime and how it has exacerbated anti-pedestrian design approaches, (5) the war between the LAPD and Black gangs, (6) internal politics of the Catholic church, and (7) history of the blue collar suburb of Fontana, tracing its evolution from farming community to steel-milltown to rustbelt.
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