The Book: Mike Davis, CITY OF QUARTZ: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles. Vintage trade paperback reprint, 1992. Book is in fine condition.
First read: 2000
Owned since: 2000
Los Angeles. It is not the city of angels but the city of Mary, Queen of the Angels; its original name was El Pueblo de la Reina de Los Angeles. It's a small distinction but an important one, and the misunderstanding of the city's heavenly patron is just one aspect of how things get blurred there.
For better or worse, Los Angeles is the American dream distilled. It's what we do instead of joining the Foreign Legion; it is the promise of reinvention. Los Angeles doesn't care who you were or what you did before. What matters in L.A. is what you're doing today, and what you can convince people you can do tomorrow.
City of Quartz is a fascinating, angry history not only of Los Angeles, but of the idea of Los Angeles, and the stories Los Angeles tells itself about itself.
My friend Matt recommended it to me when I first moved there, saying everyone who lived in Los Angeles needed to read it. As I look at the book now, I think I should reread it now that I've left. It is not possible to see things clearly from the inside; Davis himself, a native Angeleno, started writing this book when he lived in England.
I'm going back to Los Angeles today, for a few days. I'm always glad to go back, and I'll always be glad that I lived there, but it is no longer my place, if it ever was.