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The History of Forgetting: Los Angeles and the Erasure of Memory

Analysis, photography and fiction combine in a bracing portrait of LA.

Los Angeles is a city which has long thrived on the continual re-creation of own myth. In this extraordinary and original work, Norman Klein examines the process of memory erasure in LA. Using a provocative mixture of fact and fiction, the book takes us on an 'anti-tour' of downtown LA, examines life for Vietnamese immigrants in the City of Dreams, imagines Walter Benjamin as a Los Angeleno, and finally looks at the way information technology has recreated the city, turning cyberspace into the last suburb.

In this new edition, Norman Klein examines new models for erasure in LA. He explores the evolution of the Latino majority, how the Pacific economy is changing the structure of urban life, the impact of collapsing infrastructure in the city, and the restructuring of those very districts that had been 'forgotten'.


  • “Klein clearly follows in Mike Davis's wake, but develops a distinctive focus on the erasure of memory in and about the city.”
  • “Klein is a fine stylist, an engaging historian—his account of the way noir shaped the city is strikingly fresh.”
  • “Norman Klein is full of ideas, brilliantly and beautifully expressed.”


  • 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 Norman M. Klein