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37 Reviews
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27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Probably better if you've lived there
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...
Published on May 4, 1999

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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A political analysis of LA in the 70s and 80s
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...
Published on December 5, 2002 by saskatoonguy


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rotten World, March 6, 2008
This review is from: City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles (Paperback)
Davis deserves praise as the voice of doom, articulated poetically, like a Biblical prophet. The ideology may be old hat, but the tone is refreshing. It takes bravery to be pessimistic in this day and age. I found the book breathtakingly persuasive as an indictment of the corrupt and corrupting power of LA's grand founding fathers whose names mark every city map. How ironic that we honor such thuggish greed, thoughtlessly. As noted by others, the final chapter on Fontana is very well done, beautifully written and passionately narrated. One might object to Davis's seemingly tiresome "politics" but this suggests that the same story could be told from a so-called "objective" point of view. This is absurd. The story is politics and there is no neutral position. But I think what stands out is Davis' love of the land and his partisan loyalty to the city itself. If he is a Marxist, he is no disloyal leftist claiming world citizenship. To the contrary, Davis falls right in with the best of the great American patriotic progressives, fighting for justice. "City of Quartz" is a love letter to a great city.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars from the other diamond side, January 6, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles (Paperback)
i love this book for many reasons. not the least being that this is written from a rarely used perspective in postmodern surface america:one that sees things from symbolism/metaphor. yes, the city is a place in time, home to a majority of the inhabitants of the western world, but also, the city is to be studied carefully because harbingers of the future can be seen in her makeup and change and los angeles, like las vegas, can tell us perhaps more about the future of the west and u.s. in social and cultural terms than perhaps anyplace.a fine read, a disturbing one, perhaps not utopian enough for america, but indeed a neccessary correction from the prevalent boosterism that permeates the american mind.
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9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars absolutely brilliant - what urban studies should aspire to, September 19, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles (Paperback)
read it with an open mind if you can. right-wing reactionaries are best advised to avoid it. i know that the truth can be hard to take. much has been made over contested facts in the book. even granted that they exist, these people seem to think that by cutting down a tree they can destroy the forest. but in the end, it's not "facts" - it's politics that matter. the politics of those who want to discredit and villify a brilliant scholar.
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Dystopian Utopia, October 6, 2006
This review is from: City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles (Paperback)
This is a sociopolitical analysis of the dark side of the supposed Los Angeles promised land. It's often quite interesting in itself, though it meanders into academic obtuseness, sanctimonious sour grapes, and a lack of validity to the rest of the world. Mike Davis is a fine muckraker as he uncovers the unique and often bizarre cultural-economic-sociological-political structures of L.A. This applies especially to the sickening power of the real estate and development industries, and the forced and hyperbolic local obsession with maintaining upper-middle class lifestyles at the expense of the most horrific and downtrodden ghettos imaginable. This book nearly achieves victory with chapters 4 and 5 - two powerful manifestos, respectively, on the class separation quietly implemented by architects and planners, and the violent oppression of the lower classes by a hubristic law enforcement complex.

Unfortunately, the book fails as a whole due to the typical weaknesses of academic writing. The separate chapters probably originated as distinct research projects that are only categorically associated with the main thesis, and the reader may wonder why each passing subject belongs in the book. This applies most to the chapter on the L.A. Catholic Archdiocese, which is of especially dubious usefulness. Meanwhile, Davis is a classic detached academic who thinks he's writing a book for the masses, but can't stop trying to impress a few other professors. Thus we have the standard long-winded and obtuse professorial writing style, complete with continuous namedropping of other obscure intellectuals, vast postmodernist statements about vague connections between disparate social phenomena, and turning the names of social thinkers into adjectives (with the recurring suffix "-ian") to describe passing concepts. Davis also can't stop making up his own terms for one-time use in impressing academia, like "squirearchy," "cryogenized," or "monolithicity." And just try to digest the following statement from a discussion about the history of the L.A. jazz scene - "...seeking through introspection and experiment to fashion a hegemonic alternative to the deracination..." Perhaps Davis has managed to impress his colleagues with all this useless gobbledygook, but he has failed with the interested reader. And any audience will be ultimately disappointed with how Davis merely complains about all of L.A.'s problems without offering any (even high-level) solutions, while also forgetting to explore how any of this analysis can be applied to other cities or environments with similar problems. [~doomsdayer520~]
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8 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful, November 28, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles (Paperback)
This book taught me a lot about LA, one of my adopted homes. The author's insights into the history of this noir paradise are compelling. There's are many non sequitors and idealogical stretches in this book- but at least Davis takes a stance, as so few academics really do these days.
This is a great book if you're trying to understand LA. As far as being Cyberpunk-- it's too scholarly for those looking for a quick view of an Orwellian future.
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant analysis of LA history--prescient vision of future, October 22, 1999
This review is from: City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles (Paperback)
Cultural Studies at its best. Lucid, well researched, and rigorously argued while spanning a wide range of disciplines and socio-historical trajectories. A must-read for those interested in understanding where we're all going.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Impressive, April 15, 2014
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This review is from: City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles (Paperback)
I have lived 5 years in Los Angeles and I have to say reading this book has completely changed my perception of the city. Coming from another continent, names like Hollywood and Beverly Hills were familiar to me before arrival, but I knew nothing about Pasadena "Old Money" or South Central struggles. And even after years living here, I had some notions of the city history but I was far away from the rich and complex web of relationships unveiled by this book. Reading this book left me craving for more readings, I think I will go over the book again and read some of the books mentioned in the citations
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5.0 out of 5 stars It's Mike Davis for crying out loud., March 6, 2014
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He's one of the top "radical geographers" ever. And this book, City of Quartz - about LA - has one of my favorite essays: Fortress LA.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Story on RFK was the best of the lot, September 2, 2014
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This review is from: City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles (Paperback)
Fast delivery. Story on RFK was the best of the lot. Other than that, not memorable.
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9 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Visitor's Viewpoint, September 9, 2002
By 
DAVID BRYSON (Glossop Derbyshire England) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles (Paperback)
I have lost count of the number of times I have visited LA (privately, never on business) over the last 39 years. My own little piece of the city, up on the bluff by Loyola Marymount, has hardly changed in all that time. Playa del Rey beach has gone rather quiet because of the extension of the runways at LAX and that's about it -- until you go down the hill on Lincoln, a matter of a few hundred yards, and then you're into the real LA with a city within a city under construction, the Marina bigger than ever and the skyscrapers visible when the smog permits. In 1963 City Hall was the highest building in town.
Every visit has taken me downtown. Plenty of it is still scruffy like in 1963, but in recent years I have been able to go to Otello and symphony concerts. I have been to east LA and I have been to Bel Air, I have watched the ethnic mix visibly change and I have seen people become more careful than before even in placid Westchester. The most interesting new building seems to me the Taj Mahony as I have seen it called in the LA Times, and one of the most interesting chapters in this book is concerned with Cardinal Roger M. himself. Padre Rogelio came up on the left, (not the Marxist left obviously) as a champion of the hispanic poor and I wonder why he needs a new cathedral. Was the damage to the old one in the North Ridge quake really that bad, or is ostentation necessary if you are going to count at all in LA? Are those skyscrapers really earthquake-proof (I have read Arthur C Clarke's Richter 10) or do you just have to have skyscrapers to be taken seriously as a city? I am not religious, but the most interesting question of biblical criticism has always seemed to me to be 'What did they do in Gomorrah?'. If the rich barricaded themselves in fortress-compounds and builded themselves towers even unto the sky and the high priest joined them in a not inconsiderable effort of his own it is not hard to imagine a few parallels if, God forbid, the Big One ever strikes. Mike Davis's basic theme is not too far from this. LA has had its share of natural troubles over the years I have known it -- fires, floods and some mercifully 'minor' quakes, but the 1992 riots illustrate his main thesis which is that LA could be riding for a bad fall through social tensions, and high-profile instances of repressive policing are further grist to his mill. Whether any of this counts as neo-Marxist etc I neither know nor care, and I cannot comment on his accuracy or otherwise but it's hard to think of a viewpoint that could see all this as anything but plausible. I can quite understand the reservations that have been voiced about his tone and his style, but these are side-issues. This is not fiction.
Me, I love the place. This is mainly because of the people I am privileged to know there, but it has magic just for itself, for me anyway. On the other hand that just makes me privileged too in my own degree. The first thing that struck me on my latest visit to America, for some reason, was the omnipresent injunction 'Eat, Eat, Eat'. A sociologist friend tells me that
80% of Americans are clinically obese. Whatever one's views about inequality, repression and what have you, the underlying issue seems to me to be that our rate of consumption is simply unsustainable, and that a world economy based on growth has to come to an end somewhere. This is not music to my own ears let alone American ears, but Galbraith has been arguing it for long enough and if there is any answer to the point overall, as opposed to disputing details, I have not yet seen it. It makes me think of ostriches. When the ostrich takes her head out of the sand she can run very fast. She passeth the horse and his rider, the scripture tells us. It also tells us that God hath deprived her of wisdom, neither hath he imparted to her understanding. I hope this is not us.
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City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles
City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles by Mike Davis (Paperback - March 10, 1992)
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