Mar 26, 2017

city of quartz, review of ch 1 & 2

i've just finished the second chapter of Mike Davis' strange treatise on L.A. and thought it would be worthwhile to get my thoughts out on paper before diving into much more of it, as the book is quite dense.

the first chapter traces the cultural hegemony of L.A., from the 1880's to the 1990s.  the second, called 'power lines', traces the sweep of power in the same period.  both chapters are densely packed with references to names and places, given up more as a reference to other work than as any way of explanation.  it makes it difficult to truly parse because the density of information that Davis' prose rides on top of. i'd almost rather that he would expand out his own writing, bringing the relevant stories and explanations into the book as a way of better pinning down, explicitly his point.  the chapters are packed because there is much to unpack -- characters, movements, waves of new money.

notice how culture and power are considered as separate spheres; there are power dynamics in play in culture, however.  perhaps a better term for the 'power' chapter is something along the lines of money-land-politic figures.  the family that owns the Times, the developer cabal, the Westside hollywood contingency.  the importance of promoting L.A. / SoCal as a desirable location because of property values.  as in, if you can drive demand for tract houses and suburban lots than the value of the thing that you already own is worth even more.

perhaps one of the most striking things is how strangely relevant the characters are today, on a national scale.  in the list of players of foreign money that flow into L.A. real estate in unprecedented amounts is one Donald Trump, with a multi-million dollar tower play in downtown LA.  there's Lew Wasserman, the "Supreme Being of Democratic fundraising in Hollywood".  i'm guessing there is much relation between this Wasserman of Democratic glittertown funds and the recently disgraced Deb Wasserman, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee.  a daughter, perhaps? or a close niece?  and if you've been following congressional opposition to Trump, surely you'd recognize the name Maxine Waters; she gets a passing mention in the Prologue (and as the index assures me, much more coverage in later chapters).

then there's the theme of Anglo supremacy, the unspoken but now pointed out rationale behind the siren song of the SoCal coast.  come to SoCal and embed yourself into a suburban White utopia. at least, that's how the land developers and tract kings peddled their wares to the Midwesterners that funded the first wave of migration thru the 1920s and 1950s.  there was more to it than white supremacy, but not much.  it's eye-opening to discover how much of the past is ever present.

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