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(NEW EDITION) City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles Paperback – 4 Sep 2006

4.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Verso Books; New Edition edition (4 Sept. 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844675688
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844675685
  • Product Dimensions: 13.8 x 3 x 20.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 214,440 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


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.

Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Davis is well-known in radical circles as a popular writer on various issues relating to labor movements and the like. This is essentially a history of the city of Los Angeles and its surroundings from a radical perspective. It's quite well-done and very informative (at least to an ignoramus like me), but Davis goes overboard now and then in seeing a conspiracy to repress the poor behind everything. He also has the tendency to call historical incidences of repression a "holocaust" (he actually uses this word multiple times for different things), which I don't like being used in this manner. Aside from that though, it's a welcome different approach from the usual hagiographic or hip postmodern analyses of conglomeration cities like LA. There's not much more I can say about it, as whether you like his left-wing critical vignettes or not will be mostly a matter of taste - judge it for yourself.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Well he got an A so this must have helped and it was cited in his Uni personal statement which got him 5 offers without interview so must have been a good buy! Took ages to arrive though.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x8e618c60) out of 5 stars 70 reviews
36 of 36 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8e6d6a20) out of 5 stars Probably better if you've lived there 4 May 1999
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
This may be a book only LA natives can really "get". Judging by some of the other reviews, not getting it seems pretty common. For me, it was a hilarious/horrific view of the city in which I grew up. The message is - LA is the city of the future and this is why that's bad. Don't get me wrong. I don't agree with everything he says, but everything he says provokes thought.
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.
31 of 34 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa8e1ef0c) out of 5 stars Despairing 8 Nov. 2002
By saliero - Published on
Format: Paperback
A celebrated work, one of the essential readings for anyone interested in the social and political fabric of this most intriguing, beguiling monstrous of urban spaces. The book is certainly scholarly (the footnotes themselves make great reading), and it takes some effort to read. This is no booster-like `fable' about LA.
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
21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8e1a7348) out of 5 stars A political analysis of LA in the 70s and 80s 6 Dec. 2002
By saskatoonguy - Published on
Format: Paperback
The spirit of the book is symbolized by the cover photo - a stunning but unusual high rise that upon closer examination turns out to be a high rise prison.
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.
24 of 28 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8e18909c) out of 5 stars A provocative (but over-reaching) essay on urban inequality 23 Dec. 2008
By Chris Dixon - Published on
Format: Paperback
Several years ago I picked this book up on a business trip to L.A. and couldn't put it down. Since then I've become an armchair aficionado of L.A./Southland history and returned to explore the area as often as I can afford. This book has to be compared to the likes of Heidi and Alvin Toffler's "Third Wave" and so forth. It's part essay, part history, and part futurism. As with the "Third Wave" it's full of breathless pronouncements of WHAT HAS BEEN and WHAT WILL BE--except this is more of a dystopian nightmare. Like it or not, L.A. has been the most important city in America--probably the world--since World War Two. This comes thanks to the advent of TV, which sold the world on "fun in the sun." So, if you want to read one grand pronouncement on the darkest possible outcome of modern urban inequality, this is a good one. Just figure it won't turn out as badly as he predicts. Mike Davis is like a stopped clock of the analog variety. He's going to be right twice a day. But it sure is fun to read him going on about it.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8e210798) out of 5 stars The process of becoming 21 July 2013
By James Levy - Published on
Format: Paperback
City of Quartz is one of the top 20 books I've ever read. It penetrates the fog that so often surrounds how a thing becomes that which we know. In this case, he illuminates the creation and recreation of Los Angeles, as an idea and a built space. Davis nicely combines the materialist eye of a Marxian with the intellectual awareness of a grounded post-modernist to catch both the ways Los Angeles has operated as a vehicle for capital accumulation and been sold as a cure-all and a dream. Los Angeles is explicated as the model for the real estate capitalism that came to play such a dominant part in the American economy (and which all the kings horses and men are still trying to put back together again after 2007) and our automobile-centric consumer culture. Although it plays a part in his narrative, Hollywood and it's "dream machine" do not suck all the air out of the tale. Davis knows the city too well to let Hollywood swallow his story. And he respects it too much to tie it all up in too neat a bow. He leaves space for the reader to consider, contemplate, and draw his own conclusions. I cannot reccomend this book too highly.
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