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City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles New Edition Edition

3.8 out of 5 stars 70 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1844675685
ISBN-10: 1844675688
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Mike Davis peers into a looking glass to divine the future of Los Angeles, and what he sees is not encouraging: a city--or better, a concatenation of competing city states--torn by racial enmity, economic disparity, and social anomie. Looking backward, Davis suggests that Los Angeles has always been contested ground. In the 1840s, he writes, a combination of drought and industrial stock raising led to the destruction of small-scale Spanish farming in the region. In the 1910s, Los Angeles was the scene of a bitter conflict between management and industrial workers, so bitter that the publisher of the Los Angeles Times retreated to a heavily fortified home he called "The Bivouac." And in 1992, much of the city fell before flames and riot in a scenario Davis describes as thus: "Gangs are multiplying at a terrifying rate, cops are becoming more arrogant and trigger-happy, and a whole generation is being shunted toward some impossible Armageddon." Davis's voice-in-a-whirlwind approach to the past, present, and future of Los Angeles is alarming and arresting, and his book is essential reading for anyone interested in contemporary affairs. --Gregory MacNamee --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Eschewing the character study that comprises most Los Angeles history, Davis concentrates on the ongoing and ignored ethnic and class struggles, formerly manifested by booster (pro-growth) exploitation, now replaced by exclusionary (no-growth) neighborhood incorporation, and by police control of Afro-American and Latino neighborhoods. His analysis of recent Los Angeles history is often chilling and--sad to say--more true than false. Small inaccuracies sometimes afflict the narrative, and the breathlessness of Davis's writing will probably confuse readers who are unfamilar with the region. But these criticisms quibble with an otherwise important and necessary work. Recommended.
- Tim Zindel, Hastings Coll . of the Law, San Francisco
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 441 pages
  • Publisher: Verso; New Edition edition (September 4, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844675688
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844675685
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 1.2 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (70 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #44,103 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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.
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By saliero on November 8, 2002
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.
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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.
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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.
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