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21Apr

Set the Night on Fire by Mike Davis and Jon Wiener review – the real LA in the 1960s

Blue skies, palm trees ... and a dark heart. This long-awaited study gets behind the myths to detail riots and radical action centring on race, class and sex

To its profit and enduring loss, there is probably no city in human history that has been more promiscuously imagined than Los Angeles. For the better part of the century, most of the planet’s population has seen some version of LA depicted in film and on television: a windblown dream of palm trees swaying within the same cliched confines. A blue-skied neverland of beauty, youth and pleasure alternates with a secret underbelly of corruption and sin in the dialectic of “sunshine and noir”, first described by Mike Davis 30 years ago in City of Quartz, which remains the best book written about LA.

The Los Angeles of popular imagination is a place without history, without politics, and almost entirely without brown people. Except for the freeways and the bright bougainvillea, it bears little resemblance to the vast and vital multilingual, largely working-class, viciously unequal and still painfully segregated city of immigrants that those of us who have lived there have come to love.

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Lessons From the Desert: Rediscovering the Endlessness of Time

Dolores Dorantes and I became friends nine years ago, in LA. In those days she was staying in a trai...

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