• City of Quartz

  • Excavating the Future in Los Angeles
  • By: Mike Davis
  • Narrated by: Tim Campbell
  • Length: 15 hrs and 39 mins
  • 4.6 out of 5 stars (94 ratings)
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Publisher's Summary

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 West-a 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.

©1990 Verso; Preface 2006 by Mike Davis (P)2018 Tantor
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

What listeners say about City of Quartz

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Interesting LA history

Interesting, leftist urban history of Los Angeles. At times feels hyperbolic and sensationalized (ex comparing widespread joblessness to literal nuclear disaster) and this is exacerbated by the reader’s dramatic voice, which is reminiscent of the Preview Man. Nonetheless some really educational and revelatory reporting on the power levers operating in LA’s geography including global finance and local politics. Written in 1990, sections on the drug wars, urban development and Latin American asylum seekers directly foreshadow current major political issues.

2 people found this helpful

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Biased & half-thought history of Los Angeles

I only got halfway though. This is an incredibly biased, borderline silly view of Los Angeles history told though a hypocritical, strictly political filter. The author really loves his vocabulary, and resorts to that trick when he wants to distract from his myriad of half-truth and half-logic judgements of the last 140 years or so of Los Angeles. He backdates morality and social custom to give an air of condescension when discussing historical events. He whines there is some "white man" conspiracy whenever the Leftists he fondly writes about have their projects collapse because of their own acts. He does have some interesting economic historical data, but audiobook isn't best format for that. In short, this is something by and for people who never got off campus - physically or mentally - and cannot function in the real world. Even taking that heavily redacted political filter in mind, it is interesting this was written in 1990 when this was a fringe tome, and the only thing that has happened then is that the modus operandi of SoCal society has adopted this stilted, biased, whiny mentality as a default. It hasn't helped Los Angeles or the world.

1 person found this helpful

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A People’s History of Los Angeles

City of Quartz has long been held up as the ultimate - and perhaps only - history of Los Angeles. It leaves a lot of obvious stuff (that I still want to read about) on the cutting room floor in favor of a populist history of the city through the lens of then-current events and local politics. I was shocked that for all of the recommendations this book had been given, not one mention of its socialist bent was ever even alluded to. It makes me think no one actually read it. If they had said so, I would’ve read it sooner.
It’s a little dated, doesn’t make the obvious connections it could to conclude the book, but it’s also very thoroughly researched, a solid reading, and gives great new perspective on a city I’ve called home for 15 years.

3 people found this helpful

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Best to be familiar with CA history to read this.

Great book. Gives a strong narrative to LA County history. Be familiar with CA history before picking it up.

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good not great

needs to be updated and bridged to 2021. good history but not end of story

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Carefully elaborates LA in historical character

LA is presented as not a given, but as social relations made, unmade and remade in historical time, choices made by individual and group actors yes, but under conditions they ultimately didn't choose.

The metaphor of noir ties in nicely with the felt inexorability of political, social, and geographical upheavals and conflicts given the broader context of forces and relations in motion. Yet, despite this, Davis gives a sense of rebellion even in its most cynical and nihilistic forms as a creative as well as creatively destructive force. The contending classes may end in ruin but not without a fight.

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Multifaceted history of a city

Interesting perspectives on Greater Los Angeles, a city I moved to in 1989 -- a year before this book was published.

It covers lots of ground and provides backgrounds of many names I've encountered -- the Chandlers, Hell's Angels, and Kaiser Permanente.

I especially appreciated the essay exploring the history of the archdiocese of Los Angeles with the long tradition of Celtic bishops over a largely Latinx flock.

The reader does make some pronunciation errors which stumble over the authority of the author. Pico Rivera becomes "Riviera" and Los Feliz unhappily becomes "Felix".

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Great Insights to Where BLM Uprisings Come From Institutional Rascism

This book really gives see you insights into how Los Angeles was created including various ways over 150 years. I have no idea about the institutionalized racism that takes place here. It is truly a real estate Nirvana for the people who have made all this money all these years and these sorts of things seem to continue. If you want to learn about Los Angeles, this is a must read book. It was written in 1990 and So many of the things that happened before then repeats itself in the following 30 years. Learn your history and see why the present day is the way it is.

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Great book!

Been looking for a good history of LA book and this hit a lot of the subjects I was looking for.

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Pretentious sanctimonious, windbag! LA hater.

This book reads as if it were caricature of a pretentious, negative, intellectual. So negative and full of himself. Why not just sum it up by saying that he hates LA and all it's sudo-intellectuals, phony's, celebrities and apparently anyone else that chooses to live there. He definitely knows a lot about his subject, but the way he shares this info is so negative and sanctimonious pretentious that it's impossible to listen to.