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Holy Land: A Suburban Memoir Paperback – April 17, 2005


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (April 17, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393327280
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393327281
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.6 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #251,112 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Welcome to Lakewood, California, the world's largest suburb and the subject of an oddly mesmerizing account of its creation by D. J. Waldie. Waldie describes how bean fields were drawn up, sectioned off and divided up--leaving tracts for small houses of similar design. The author changes while the land around him does, in a story of how people make places and, more so, places make people. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Waldie, public information officer of Lakewood, Calif., as a boy moved with his family to one of that town's suburbs that was designed and built nearly overnight during the 1950s. In this unusual and compelling memoir organized into a series of short, episodic essays, some of which were previously published in journals, the author describes both a place and the mindset of a decade. Built on a grid, the subdivision of identical houses on similar lots was owned by three businessmen whose Jewish background would have prevented them from living there at that time. Homes were quickly sold to young couples?many of the men were WWII veterans?purchasing a house for the first time. The design of a shopping mall within Lakewood that was opened in 1952 included a half-mile civil defense fallout shelter and reflected the fear of Soviet attack that was mirrored by the attitudes of the Roman Catholic nuns who taught Waldie in school. Photos.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

D. J. Waldie was named one of L.A.'s most influential interpreters by Los Angeles Magazine in 2006 and called "a gorgeous distiller of architectural and social history" by the New York Times in 2007.

In 2008, novelist and memoirist Patricia Hampl, writing in "Commonweal," said of Holy Land: A Sunurban Memoir, "(It) captivated me when it first came out. It still astonishes. It's no easier to describe now than it was before it became a classic of American autobiography. Waldie's range is staggering - from intimate, touchingly respectful revelations of family life and spiritual reality to a precise history of land development and public policy regarding water use (and don't imagine this is the boring part). Waldie has written nothing less than the spiritual autobiography of the midcentury American suburban dream. It proves to be a subject worthy of tragedy and of his remarkable elegy."

A screenplay (adapted from Holy Land) will be produced by James Franco in 2014.

D. J. Waldie is a contributing writer at Los Angeles magazine and a contributing editor for the Los Angeles Times.

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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This little book is a gem, and Waldie's writing is what makes it sparkle.
S. Kay Murphy
I was drawn in from the beginning of the book-- but when I got to the last 1/4 of it, I was seriously thinking of throwing the towel in.
Barb F.
I am surprised how much I have enjoyed reading this required book for a class in L.A. Literature.
Kristine L. Vermillion

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Matthew Cheney on March 14, 2001
Format: Paperback
Though subtitled "a suburban memoir", D.J. Waldie's Holy Land is a lot more than that. It is a history of the concept of suburbia, a portrait of a specific place, a chronicle of one man's relationship to that place. Formally, it is a collection of 316 prose poems, plus photographs. There is no other book like it.
You don't have to be a suburbanite or a suburban exile to appreciate Waldie's incisive and insightful writing, nor do you need to be particularly interested in the tale being told. Like most truly great books, Holy Land fuses itself to your mind regardless of what is already there. The tiny chapters accumulate, and once you have read a few, reverberations begin, harmonies and discords, and soon the whole becomes much greater than the single parts. It is a thrilling reading experience.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 23, 2004
Format: Paperback
I taught this book as the last reading in an undergraduate course on Western suburban history. The students responded with tremendous enthusiasm. They recognized much that was familiar in Waldie's strange hometown (a strangeness common to suburbs all over the West). This book crystallized a feeling of loss for many students. Suburbs like Lakewood, or like the tract house developments going up today all over the region and nation, feel emptied of history for the children who grow up there. Their names (Lakewood?) like their green lawns are imposed, divorced from the land's human and natural history. Children feel this and they know something is missing. This book opened up the opportunity for students to express their own feelings and experiences of suburban life.
Note I also recommend you see the wonderful poetry of Kevin Hearle, _Each Thing We Know is Changed Because We Know It_ (1994)
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 20, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I can't be nearly as eloquent as the other reviewers but I found this to be a truly powerful book. My WWII-generation parents bought their first house in Lakewood in 1952 and lived there for 15 years. I have always had a fascination with Lakewood, and as corny as it may seem, always felt a kind of spiritual connection to the place. While certainly an in-depth look at the history of "my city", Waldie just as expertly explores issues such as existence and mortality. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 5, 1999
Format: Paperback
Holy Land is a work which reflects. Like a mirror, it reflects those of us who have grown up in suburbia. It shows how the planned community has shaped our lives and our identities. Who we are is largely defined by those who have laid out the grid work of our neighborhoods. It also reflects the historical accidents which brought suburbs into being. Would suburbs have been necessary without the Great Depression, World War II, the automobile or the dust bowl? It is emotionally reflective because the writing style and the content causes the reader to pause and reflect upon the neighborhood grids, and patterns which have shaped and defined the reader. It is spiritually reflective because the content forces the spiritual questions, "Is there anything more to life?" "Is life really nothing more than surviving in a landscape which is a grid designed by a developer who's primary purpose was to make a profit?" If the reader's answer is "no" then I suppose Holy Land is a depressing piece of non-fiction. It is also spiritually reflective because it illustrates how humans define space. Through human definition some space becomes sacred, other space becomes desirable and other space becomes functional. The reader is forced to reflect upon how the space in which their life is experienced is defined. In its very size and shape Holy Land is reflective of suburbia. A book that can be read before the 8:00 p.m. prime time begins. A book without strings attached. A book of poignant memories to which all veterans of suburbia can relate. This book however should not be read in a single sitting, although that would be very easy to do. I recommend that the reader read passages and then go for a walk or a drive through their neighborhood and reflect upon their own life and neighborhood. Then return back to the book and read some more If nothing else it will be a reflective experience.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Peter Cas Jones on February 1, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I live in Signal Hill, right next to Lakewood. On Saturday mornings I like to get up early and get a 40 of Olde English and ride my old english 3 speed bicycle around the quiet streets of Lakewood while sipping my beer. There is an erie sense of peace and contentment that lives in this place. It's foggy usually at this time of year, and big crows caw and flap from street to street and wire to wire. big trees sit silently, there hardly ever seems to be any wind. I ride along sipping my beer, driving right up the middle of seemingly abandoned suburban streets, never bothered by cops as I would if I drove up the street drinking beer from a bottle at 8 in the morning over in Long Beach. Indeed, the only signs of life are the crows and the occaisional dog barking from behind a fence. Mr. Waldie has recreated this strange world perfectly in the pages of his book.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Susan Rankaitis on May 12, 2007
Format: Paperback
D. J. Waldie's Holy Land: a Suburban Memoir is so beautifully and carefully written that I found myself reading segments out loud for the simple pleasure of savoring the language. While writing of his life in a housing tract in Lakewood, California, Mr. Waldie, writing in short and interweaving passages and segments, examines his everyday life in an almost commonplace suburb with precision and grace. His family, neighbors and friends emerge as people we may know. His house has a familiarity to many of us, even though we have never been there. Mr. Waldie, however, sees everyday life so clearly and makes even the "how to" of putting together a stucco tract home so interesting that I could not put down this book and felt a great sadness when I had finished. His is a lovely and important story about a very smart and gentle man who cares deeply about aspects of Los Angeles history and is eager to hear stories of our Southern California future.
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