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What a colossal disappointment this book turned out to be. I have a keen interest in L.A. but, despite a lot of great information in here, the thing is one big socialist rant against all that is L.A. I'm sorry, but I do not need it shoved down my throat that big business is bad and the LAPD are scum. Stating the obvious or picking on these targets is like the proverbial shooting fish in a barrel. Give me something new!
The main problem with this tome is it's poorly edited. Take, for example, this sample sentence: "They described the Culture Industry not merely as political economy, but as a specific spatiality that vitiated the classical proportions of European urbanity, expelling from the stage both the 'masses' (in their heroic, history-changing incarnation) and the critical intelligensia." Besides swallowing the dictionary on this one (and many others) Davis shows he has yet to learn the Orwellian principle of writing clear, concise and well-constructed sentences.
Another major problem is his research seems to have been done mostly in the library. There are quotes that head sections within chapters but for someone presenting a broad social history and criticism of L.A., why not interview a few of the people who live there about the issues he brings about? Take the first chapter--72 pages of text, 168 footnotes. Let me repeat that--that's 168(!) footnotes. Are there any original thoughts in that chapter given the number of footnotes?
Also, for someone who rightly criticizes the L.A. Times for its political machinations, he certainly uses the Times as source material especially for statistics. If, on the one hand, he portrays the Times as a right-wing organ throughout pretty much most of its history, wouldn't you think, from a socialist's point of view, that quoting or reporting anything the Times says is counter to that?
Davis only truly writes well in the chapter "The Hammer and the Rock" which focuses on the LAPD's aggressive policing policy of ghetto areas. This chapter is as good as the excellent Miles Corwin book "The Killing Season" on the lives of two LAPD homicide detectives over one summer.
The last chapter on an area inland called Fontana seems to fit the Davis agenda. It's the place he grew up in but explain to me how relevant it is when it still remains a fringe area in L.A. history? Interesting but certainly not needed in this book. There are so many things Davis could have touched on in this book. In fact, when he focuses on the entertainment industry, it's on the Hollywood movie scene and about such sad things as how it devoured such talents as Fitzgerald and Faulkner when they came out West. Yet Hollywood is just one part of LA's entertainment history.
With his focus on the importance of land deals, it's surprising he left out the sports industry altogether. There is a goldmine of boondoggles in the Dodgers move from Brooklyn, the Oakland Raiders move south then back north, the Rams to Anaheim and then St. Louis, the growth of minor league baseball in the Inland Empire, etc. He does touch on music but doesn't get into it enough. And what of pop culture trends, fads, and wacko religions. Or even a focus on the drive-in religious temples that sprouted in L.A. He does get in his digs at L. Ron Hubbard, but that's it.
In other hands this could have been a tremendous book. All that was needed was a little objectivity and less socialist rancor (and I'm not saying this because I'm some kind of right-wing Nazi, I enjoyed Howard Zinn's "People's History of the US" as that was well-written and felt like I wasn't being lectured to.).