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City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los…
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City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles (New Edition) (original 1990; edition 2006)

by Mike Davis, Robert Morrow (Photographer)

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1,3021210,856 (4.01)18
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.… (more)
Member:peoplesparkinglot
Title:City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles (New Edition)
Authors:Mike Davis
Other authors:Robert Morrow (Photographer)
Info:Verso (2006), Paperback, 441 pages
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City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles by Mike Davis (1990)

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  pszolovits | Feb 3, 2021 |
The first chapter alone makes City of Quartz a worthwhile read: Davis presents an idiosyncratic outline history of culture produced about Los Angeles, by what he calls ‘fabricators of the spectacle’—littérateurs, filmmakers, musicians and artists—engaged in a series of ‘attempts to establish authentic epistemologies’ for the city.

In the early 20th c., a group of writers and publicists (goaded by a syndicate of developers, bankers and transport magnates) created an ersatz history of Los Angeles that romanticized race relations and a fictional Spanish Colonial past, and promoted the power of sunshine to reinvigorate the racial energies of Anglo-Saxons. The imagery, motifs, values and legends of the Arroyo Set have been endlessly reproduced ever since. In the 1920s, a number of anti-romantic writers and painters and Popular Front-affiliated journalists worked to unmask the booster mythology and to recover the historical roles of labor and oppressed minority groups while originating observations that appeared decades later in the obscurantist vocabulary of cultural theorists.

The most influential counter to the utopist ideology came in the form of noir, first as fiction then on film, as the setting shifted from suburban bungalows to the ‘epic dereliction’ of Bunker Hill downtown. Beyond the conventional works, Davis includes in his capacious discussion of noir the fictions of John Fante, Chester Himes and John Rechy, the autobiography of Art Pepper, and Aldous Huxley’s Ape and Essence, described here as a predecessor to films like “Planet of the Apes,” “Omega Man,” and “Blade Runner.”

Huxley came to Los Angeles between the wars as part of a wave of pacifist and anti-fascist European exiles, most of whom—‘clinging to their Old World prejudices,’ as Davis tells it—responded to the ‘counterfeit urbanity’ of L.A. with melancholy, pessimism and/or panic. (One exception was Huxley, who embraced mysticism, health food and hallucinogens). It is amusing to find out that the whole Frankfurt critique of the “Culture Industry” is based upon Adorno and Horkheimer’s blinkered misreading of their first-hand L.A. ‘data.’

Toward the end of the chapter, Davis sketches a few notes on several ‘heroic’ underground cultural moments around Eric Dolphy and Ornette Coleman (elevator operator at the Bullock Wilshire), Jack Parsons, Kenneth Anger and others. The moments pass quickly, and with little discernible effect, as the 1970s and 80s were characterized by 'a mercenary, corporate-dominated arts dispensation' and an influx of celebrity architects, designers, artists and cultural theorists arriving for their adventures in hyperreality. pshaw ( )
1 vote HectorSwell | Oct 27, 2019 |
Read this book and the follow up Ecology of Fear - enjoyed both. I would highly recommend both of these titles to anyone even remotely interested in the craziness which is Southern California. ( )
  LaurieAE | Aug 22, 2013 |
Los Angeles as one rarely gets to see it - the history, the politics, the architecture. It is the story of Los Angeles with an acute eye for the absurd, the unjust, and even the dangerous.
  zenosbooks | Sep 9, 2012 |
A quintessential text of the New Western History and the most important work on Los Angeles in the latter half of the twentieth century. ( )
  j_wendel_cox | Dec 8, 2011 |
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» Add other authors (4 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Davis, Mikeprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Morrow, RobertPhotographersecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Reise, JanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rocha, MarcoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Epigraph
The superficial inducement, the exotic, the picturesque has a effect only on the foreigner.  To portray a city, a native must have other, deeper motives -- motives on one who travels into the past instead of into the distance.  A native's book about his city will always be related to memoirs; the writer has not spent his childhood there in vain.  -Walter Benjamin
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for m sweet Roisin, to remember her grandmother by...
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The best place to view Los Angeles of the next millennium is from the ruins of its alternative future.  (Prologue The View from Futures Past)
In the summer of 1989, a well-known fashion magazine constantly on the prowl for lifestyle trends reported from Los Angeles that "intellectualism" has arived there as the latest fad. (Chapter One, Sunshine or Noir?)
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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.

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