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Dead Cities: A Natural History

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 14, 2007

    This layman enjoyed it

    Geez, reading the review by 'Elizabeth Nolan, from London, UK, 04/22/2003', I realize that there's a lot I didn't grasp about this book. I read it the same way I read the newspaper, seeking a synopsis of problems and challenges regarding the subject, which in this case was (I thought) architecture and urban planning. This book tells me a lot of interesting facts I didn't know about several places I have visited. I enjoyed the book. I would have bought the book just for the chapter about Dugway. There's an awful lot about Los Angeles, one of my least favorite places, but I read it all and enjoyed it. The author examines some major mistakes and explains how they can be avoided in the future and possibly repaired in the present.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 17, 2003

    The Dead and the Dying

    Whether it strictly is or not, Dead Cities feels like the third 'instalment' in Mike Davis¿ exploration of the nature of the modern and postmodern American city, sitting alongside Ecology of Fear and the superb City of Quartz. Once again, it is his vacillating love/hate relationship with the deserts and metropolises of California in particular, which forms the centre of his work. Despite the fact that it¿s Preface would have you believe Dead Cities is a meditation upon post-September 11th urban America; it is rather a collection of essays and articles written during the last decade which each provide a broadly different `take¿ upon the notion of the dead or dying city. Dead Cities examines the fragility of our urban infrastructures, threatened by man-made or natural factors, providing us with a fractured journey through parts of America in which the apocalypse has already taken place and where the destruction of the twin towers seems an almost inevitable climax. The scope is vast, ranging from what some may find to be the rather dry economic and statistical data about corrupt town planning in LA; to fascinating and disturbing chapters on the expansion of suburban Las Vegas, and America¿s secret nuclear weapons testing. Davis also takes in the Compton race riots, extremes of weather in Canada, and there¿s even a chapter on the bombing of Berlin in WW2. What the spectre of 9/11 adds to this collective is a retrospectively portentous significance; the sense of an interminable social trajectory. The one drawback of Dead Cities is that it is easy to lose sight of it¿s central argument. It is not, like Davis¿ previous works, a narrative which steadily gains momentum, but rather ponderings around a central subject. Whilst this means the strength of a core argument is at times obscured, is also serves as the text¿s strength, making it easy to dip in and out of. The subject matter in itself almost seems more suited to this layered approach, drawing together a montage of images and ideas, all held in place by Davis¿s remarkably acute eye for human pathos and contemporary social mores. It¿s difficult to define exactly where Mike Davis¿s work should sit in terms of literary genre, for he is at once a geographer, an economist, a sociologist, a psychologist a journalist and an architectural critic. Where you will find him is under the rather vacuous heading of `urban theorist¿ which in truth combines all of the above and more. It is however, this diversity which gives his writing its appeal, and it is admirably represented here.

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