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THE REAL LAS VEGAS by David Littlejohn

THE REAL LAS VEGAS

Life Beyond the Strip

By David Littlejohn

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-19-513070-7
Publisher: Oxford Univ.

A mixed bag of essays, mostly good, on America’s strangest city. Las Vegas, writes Wall Street Journal correspondent Littlejohn (Architect: The Life and Work of Charles W. Moore, 1984, etc.), is the ultimate company town, a huge and growing city that pretends to economic diversity while drawing most of its revenue from a single industry: casino gambling. Visitors to the city leave behind some $5 billion annually at the gaming tables, to say nothing of billions more at hotels, restaurants, and shopping centers; small wonder, Littlejohn suggests, that so many other American cities and states are plunging headlong into legalized, government-controlled lotteries and casinos. And small wonder, he adds, that so many people are now flocking to Las Vegas to stake a share in the jackpot: between 1990 and 1997 the metropolitan area grew by an astonishing 48 percent, “a record no other large U.S. county even comes close to matching.” This growth, in Littlejohn’s view, is of itself neither good nor bad; it merely is. His contributors take a similarly morally distanced, reportorial point of view. One, Boston Globe writer Marie Sanchez, travels inside a Las Vegas high school to find widespread drug use, alienation, violence, and a penchant—at least among girls—to turn to prostitution for spending money around Christmas; another, freelance journalist Lisa Moskowitz, looks into the surging growth of housing in the Las Vegas Valley, a growth that comes in defiance of all economic sense—and of the arid realities of this desert place; still another, magazine editor Lori Leibovich, writes of the seemingly contradictory rise of vast “megachurches” that rival the casinos for architectural splendor. Not all the pieces are as good, but the volume adds up to a valuable snapshot of America’s fastest-growing city. (For another tour of Las Vegas, see David Thomson, In Nevada, p. 1213.)