From Publishers Weekly
Angelenos speak in catchphrases and take pride in the length of their commute. Los Angeles is a city where "people and their things are hard to tell apart," where mobile pleasure-seekers find the prospect of raising kids "just a little bit of a drag." While its middle class gets "sucked into . . . upscale consumption," its masses of largely poor Asian and Hispanic immigrants, many of them illegal, are not being assimilated, according to Rieff ( Going to Miami ). Drive-by shootings are nightly occurrences in black slums, and thousands of homeless ply the beaches of Venice and Santa Monica. A devastating, wonderful, witty send-up of L.A.--and CA--as crucibles of the 21st century, this disquieting report delineates a city with an ethos of unchecked growth, sprawl and possibility that "decontextualizes" its residents from reality. First serial to Los Angeles Times; author tour.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Kirkus Reviews
Ambitious in both style and substance, Rieff's second major book on a US metropolis (Going to Miami, 1987) attempts to resolve the contradictions of L.A. by proclaiming it the Third World's capital. It's a hard sell, but Rieff does create a memorable sermon on the myopia afflicting the middle and upper classes in southern California, who seem desperately unaware of their city's decline. This is a book about gardeners, real estate, and cars: in other words, about immigration, diminishing expectations, and social and cultural gridlock. The author, a full-blown intellectual of the New York-Paris axis, has his cosmopolitan way with that most rigorous and decadent of places. He seems to mean his book to be both serious and droll, as well as a stylistic tour de force, and he comes close on all three aims. But this is also an exercise in aggravation. There's Rieff's overdependence on his ``good friend Allegra,'' a BMW-driving Everywoman, plus his unfortunate penchant of condescending to the Third World help (``...when the conversation turned, as it did so often in bourgeois America in 1989 and 1990, to the collapse of the Soviet empire, I would slip into the kitchen and talk to the maid...[where] the Rosa or Maria...in question would tell me stories about home''). Lapsing into a faux-L.A. tone, at times the author achieves the very banality he seeks to parody. Another flaw is an indistinct focus-- he makes sweeping statements about the City of Los Angeles (where ``most whites had long ago abandoned the public schools'') that simply aren't true of the much larger Los Angeles County. Yet there's much to be grateful for as well: an ambitious prose style, a thorough historical buildup that does justice to L.A.'s elusive yet crucial spirit, and a knack for the telling statistic or detail. A big book that justifies the attention Rieff has drawn, without quite earning the laurels predicted of him. -- Copyright ©1991, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.