Holy Land : A Suburban Memoir

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1997 Trade paperback New. BRAND NEW. Excellent condition. Never read or opened. Has very small dot remainder mark. Trade paperback (US). Glued binding. 192 p. Audience: ... General/trade. Read more Show Less

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"D.J. Waldie recounts growing up in Lakewood, California, a prototypical post-World War II suburb. Laid out in 316 sections as carefully measured as a grid of tract houses, Holy Land is by turns touching, eerie, funny, and encyclopedic in its handling of what was gained and lost when thousands of blue-collar families were thrown together in the new suburbs of the 1950s." With an introduction and afterword that bring his suburban story up to date, this edition places Waldie's Holy Land in the context of the nation's postwar history.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Waldie, public information officer of Lakewood, Calif., as a boy moved with his family to one of that town's suburbs that was designed and built nearly overnight during the 1950s. In this unusual and compelling memoir organized into a series of short, episodic essays, some of which were previously published in journals, the author describes both a place and the mindset of a decade. Built on a grid, the subdivision of identical houses on similar lots was owned by three businessmen whose Jewish background would have prevented them from living there at that time. Homes were quickly sold to young couples-many of the men were WWII veterans-purchasing a house for the first time. The design of a shopping mall within Lakewood that was opened in 1952 included a half-mile civil defense fallout shelter and reflected the fear of Soviet attack that was mirrored by the attitudes of the Roman Catholic nuns who taught Waldie in school. Photos. (June)
Library Journal
Both these books focus on how the concept of home shaped the lives of 1950s American families. Froncek tells a poignant story of a son's attempt to reconcile himself to his father, an event triggered by the father's Alzheimer's disease and his eventual death in a nursing home. The son finds the key to his father's life in the house the man built for his growing family, then precipitously abandoned. Froncek's quest leads not only to a better understanding of his father but also to greater self-knowledge and acceptance. Waldie, the public information officer for Lakewood, California, brings that suburb to life by interweaving a plethora of historical facts and statistical details with brief anecdotes about community residents. Ironically, these anecdotes tend to focus on those who violated community norms. His work, organized into 316 brief sections, combines personal narrative with a history of real-estate development in the community. Several common threads run through each memoir: father-son relations, fear of communism, community responses to the Vietnam War dead, even the Catholic liturgy during Holy Week. Yet these are very different books. Froncek's memoir celebrates the individualism of a man who built his own house and hungered to rise above the herd; Waldie's describes the virtues of ordinariness and uniformity resulting from mass production. Froncek's lyrical memoir will appeal to a general audience; Waldie's work will more likely attract readers with an interest in urban planning.William Gargan, Brooklyn Coll. Lib., CUNY
Kirkus Reviews
Part memoir, part social history, this odd collection of reflections should resonate with anyone who has experienced the profound loneliness of life in suburbia.

Waldie is a poet, one of BUZZ magazine's 100 certified cool people, and public information officer of Lakewood, Calif. (One can't help wondering how long he'll be retained in this position after the publication of this bleak and cynical book.) He has written a bizarre, often nonsequential, collection of anecdotes and observations on the oppressively gridlike layout of the suburb in which he still lives, city planning, flood control, estrangement between neighbors or between parents and children, Catholicism, and bureaucracy. Waldie's flat, terse, and often emotionless prose seems jarringly appropriate to this description of an environment characterized by painful aesthetic monotony and emotional distance. Waldie skillfully traces Lakewood's evolution in the context of the rise of the suburbs, tract housing, shopping centers, and the 1950s illusion that everyone could be middle class ("Middle-class houses are the homes of people who would not live here"). As a city official, he comes in contact with Lakewood's most eccentric residents; his descriptions of them, factual and stripped of explicit judgment or commentary, are both funny and desperately sad. Mrs. A. perpetually invents conspiracies that implicate the city, the cable company, NASA, and the fast-food fry cook who raped her. One man complains about the red traffic signals he encounters on his way home from work: he wants the city to make them all green, all the time. Waldie is perhaps at his creepiest when he turns his detached terseness on his parents and the woman he once loved, giving only the slightest hints of how he feels about anyone. This isn't always successful; at points his descriptions are too minimal even to provoke our interest.

Still, when Waldie's style works, his empty front lawns are every bit as depressing as the real thing.

Dave Eggers
“A quirky, haunting and frequently breathtaking account of postwar suburban life. Quietly inspiring.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312168643
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 8/28/1997
  • Edition description: REV
  • Pages: 192
  • Product dimensions: 5.52 (w) x 8.26 (h) x 0.49 (d)

Meet the Author

D. J. Waldie still lives in the tract house he writes about. He has received a Whiting Writers Award and a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, among other honors.
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 25, 2009

    Balefully enchanting, a voice of a suburb.

    Not what I was expecting, yet it was interesting and novel. It is written briefly, though not quite succintly, and in a restrained understated manner of an observant longtime resident of Lakewood, CA. The author is an engaged student of local history, especially of unique personalities who either do or attempt to found cities, develop vast tracts of bean fields or pipe and pump perhaps LA rarest resource, water. In some ways, Waldie has captured his suburb perfectly while enriching the reader through his incisive wit and pithy characterization of suburban paradoxes. Enjoy.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2008

    holy land: a suburban memoir

    holy land was a tough book to follow. its about a man name d. j. waldie. His family was one of the first to move into the newly built city of Lakewood California. His parents die, and inserts of them keep popping but all through out the book, and it becomes an annoyance. that would be the main conflict. I didn't like this book at all. the way the author writes the book in little short inserts which are no more than a page or as little as a sentence. It gave me the feeling that the author has a bad case of ADD. On that, the inserts rarley relate to each other and gives a sense of disorganization. I dont Recommend this book, but thats just me

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 31, 2004

    Holy Land: A Book Of Pride And Knowledge

    Holy Land is a man¿s memoir of growing up in Lakewood, California, the epitome of all suburban cities. D.J. Waldie gives the reader insight of his life as a child, teenager, and married man living life in a quiet post World War II suburb. He also adds in the history of how 'his city' was founded and developed. Though some may believe memoirs are boring and useless, Waldie turns the growth of himself and a city into a suspenseful and fun adventure through time. Such as, when Waldie tells you about how the developers of Lakewood pioneered brand new ideas in the building a city, he leaves you wondering if these ideas are going to work or not. Waldie writes in an easy free-flowing prose that makes you feel as if you are listening to hundreds of short stories from your grandfather's lap. In my opinion Holy Land is an excellent and a must read for everyone. The part I enjoyed most about this book is when Waldie gives the history of Lakewood. Living in the city of Lakewood may have increased my interest of the subject but I¿m sure I would have been entertained even if I don¿t live here. Holy Land has given me a great deal knowledge of my city, knowledge that I probably would have never received if it weren¿t for D.J Waldie. I always enjoy learning of the past of something close to me and the book was perfect just for that. Now that I know why every house in my city has a tree in front of it and why a certain neighborhood doesn¿t have sidewalks. It kind of makes me feel good about myself. I enjoy driving down the streets of my city and being able to tell my friends why there are small shopping centers on the corner of every intersection that is a mile apart. This book has also given me the opportunity to impress my friends dads with all of the random Lakewood knowledge that I have learned. I¿ll tell you that there is no better feeling than being able to prove someone that has been alive longer than the city wrong when they try to tell you something about where they live. Another aspect of this book that I enjoyed is how D.J Waldie has opened my eyes to a whole new aspect of my city. Before I read Holy Land I always thought of my city as just another random place on the map where dads drink beer and work on cars and moms do housework all day, but now I look at my city as a trendsetter for all other cities in the United States after World War II.

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