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City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles

This new edition of Mike Davis’s visionary work gives an update on Los Angeles as the city hits the 21st century.

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.

In this new edition, Davis provides a dazzling update on the city's current status.


  • “Absolutely fascinating.”
  • “Few books shed as much light on their subjects as this opinionated and original excavation of Los Angeles from the mythical debris of its past and future.”
  • “A history as fascinating as it is instructive.”


  • Not a Revolution – Yet

    We should resist the temptation to over-interpret Trump’s election as an American Eighteenth Brumaire or 1933. Progressives who think they’ve woken up in another country should calm down, take a stiff draught, and reflect on the actual election results from the swing states.

    Data, of course, is incomplete. The leading exit polls, like Pew and Edison, are hardly flawless in their harvesting of opinion and the final word on the turnout and its composition must await the Current Population Survey’s reports over the next year or two. Nonetheless, the county-level returns authorize some pertinent observations.  

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  • The Undead

    This post first appeared on The Rag Blog.

    I finally think I’ve understood why we’re so obsessed with zombies.

    The discarded shroud, the rustling in the weeds, the vaporous apparitions seen from Pocatello to Lake Wobegone, the ghost army of admirers… we were forewarned that he was back but failed to pay attention.

    On Halloween eve the “New” Nixon Library launched an expensive newspaper advertising campaign, inviting us to “discover how Richard Nixon’s legacy continues to shape our world.” He was the hero, the ads claim, who “protected the environment… desegregated schools, ended the Vietnam War.” “Buy tickets now,” the Library urges.

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  • Real Qualities of the Microcosm: Raymond Chandler in Los Angeles, USA

    Fredric Jameson has been writing about Raymond Chandler since 1970. Raymond Chandler: The Detections of the Totality presents a "stereoscopic" perspective on the great American detective novelist in three essays synthesized from Jameson's writings on Chandler over the years. The post below is excerpted from the first.   

    A long time ago when I was writing for the pulps I put into a story a line like “He got out of the car and walked across the sun-drenched sidewalk until the shadow of the awning over the entrance fell across his face like the touch of cool water.” They took it out when they published the story. Their readers didn’t appreciate this sort of thing — just held up the action. I set out to prove them wrong. My theory was that the readers just thought they cared about nothing but the action; that really, although they didn’t know it, the thing they cared about, and that I cared about, was the creation of emotion through dialogue and description.

    That the detective story represented something more to Raymond Chandler than a mere commercial product, furnished for popular entertainment purposes, can be judged from the fact that he came to it late in life, with a long and successful business career behind him.

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Other books by Mike Davis Photography by Robert Morrow

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    Buda’s Wagon

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    Late Victorian Holocausts

    A magisterial melding of global ecological and political history, disclosing the nineteenth-century roots of underdevelopment in what became the Third World

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    Planet of Slums

    The classic, brilliant, best-selling account of the rise of the world’s slums, where, according to the United Nations, one billion people now live

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