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City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles [Paperback]

by Mike Davis, Robert Morrow
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)

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Book Description

September 17, 2006 1844675688 978-1844675685 New Edition
No metropolis has been more loved or more hated. To its official boosters, “Los Angeles brings it all together.” To detractors, LA is a sunlit mortuary where “you can rot without feeling it.” To Mike Davis, the author of this fiercely elegant and wide- ranging work of social history, Los Angeles is both utopia and dystopia, a place where the last Joshua trees are being plowed under to make room for model communities in the desert, where the rich have hired their own police to fend off street gangs, as well as armed Beirut militias. 

In City of Quartz, Davis reconstructs LA’s shadow history and dissects its ethereal economy. He tells us who has the power and how they hold on to it. He gives us a city of Dickensian extremes, Pynchonesque conspiracies, and a desperation straight out of Nathaniel Westa city in which we may glimpse our own future mirrored with terrifying clarity.

In this new edition, Davis provides a dazzling update on the city’s current status.

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Editorial Reviews


“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

Mike Davis is the author of several books including Planet of Slums, City of Quartz, Ecology of Fear, Late Victorian Holocausts, and Magical Urbanism. He was recently awarded a MacArthur Fellowship. He lives in Papa’aloa, Hawaii.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 441 pages
  • Publisher: Verso; New Edition edition (September 17, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844675688
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844675685
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.5 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #49,489 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Mike Davis is the author of several books including City of Quartz, Ecology of Fear, Late Victorian Holocausts, Planet of Slums, and Magical Urbanism. He was recently awarded a MacArthur Fellowship. He lives in Papa'aloa, Hawaii.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
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.
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19 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars city of quartz , new edition September 19, 2007
City of Quartz, the original version, is an excellent book on the history of Los Angeles until 1989, well readable, informative and incisive, a must-read even if some people take offense at views which are neither mainstream nor conservative.
When you finish the book you are very curious as to how that author would write about the years since 1989.
That book still needs to be written.
But in an extensive foreword to this new edition many aspects of the most recent history of the most fascinating metropolis on the planet are touched, the Watts riots and whatnot; obviously there is much more and whoever follows what Davis writes in journals about Katrina-torn New Orleans and other hot topics, google his books !, can't wait until a new, extensively updated "City of Quartz" will be out.
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36 of 49 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Radical history of Los Angeles February 25, 2007
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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The process of becoming July 20, 2013
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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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
By jafrank
I found this really difficult to get through. While Davis's approach is very wide ranging and comprehensive, I often found myself struggling to keep up with all of the historical examples and various people mentioned in this account. Having never been there myself and knowing next to nothing about the area's history, I often felt myself overwhelmed, struggling to keep track of the various people and institutions that helped shape such a fractured, peculiarly American locale. I think it would have helped if I'd read a more general history of the region first before diving into something this intricately informed about its subject
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding Book April 19, 2013
By Wook
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Especially for a fan of L.A. like me.
Loved the updated forward, I've been waiting for it on the Kindle for years!
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Urban History September 17, 2011
Someone from Los Angeles -- or with more knowledge than me -- might quibble with the conclusions Davis reaches or the ways in which he illuminates the city. However, as someone who is not from there and has never even been there, I found this to be a fascinating read about a place, its history, and its current sociology.

I thought his organization is excellent -- covering politics first and then weaving a story through gang culture, neighborhood topography, and religion -- and his writing is vivid. At several points, I found myself wishing books like this were available on other cities across the United States because I learned so much and thought about things so differently upon finishing it.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Changing
This is a book that will change your life. It changed mine. Yes, for the better. The critics of the book are pretty much systematically hired assassins of thought and analysis. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Shawn Parkhurst
1.0 out of 5 stars Quartz Language
Mike Davis' City of Quartz uses excessively repeating imagery to interpret modern Los Angeles architecture and urban renewal as an imposing totalitarian force that seems callous... Read more
Published 17 months ago by WhatsInAName
4.0 out of 5 stars A Radical Take On the Microcosm of California in relation to the...
Mike Davis has mastered the linguistic game of authorship. He's writing style demands a high level of awareness to wit and sarcasm. Read more
Published on September 7, 2011 by Pretentious Humilitarian
2.0 out of 5 stars Would have been a good historical work if it weren't so slanted.
A portion of "The City of Quartz" that deals with LA's Jewish Community appears to be refreshingly devoid of political correctness. Read more
Published on August 25, 2011 by Chess Parent
2.0 out of 5 stars Wretched unreadable writing but interesting info and arguments
A mix of good and bad. Good: exhaustively researched, full of references, some of which I intend to read. A good starting point for many topics. Read more
Published on June 9, 2011 by Mark_the_Maven
5.0 out of 5 stars Still Too Valid. Davis Milestone for Urban Studies
An unfortunate classic for urban studies. It might be all too valid... Actually it might be gaining validity as time progresses...
Published on September 21, 2008 by Daniel Lobo
1.0 out of 5 stars One of the most boring books I've ever read
I caught Mike Davis on an HBO Documentary about gangs in Southern California, and this book was referenced many times. Read more
Published on February 10, 2008 by Christopher Dipasquale
1.0 out of 5 stars Not Really About L.A.......
As an avid fan of Los Angeles/Southland history, and having lived there from the early 1960s through the late 1980s, I was eager to get my hands on this book. Read more
Published on December 22, 2007 by F. Daly
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