HOLY LAND by D.J. Waldie


A Suburban Memoir
Email this review


 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. (20 photos, not seen)

Pub Date: June 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-393-03957-9
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1996


IndieBEYOND THE LIGHTS by Ryan  Shoemaker
by Ryan Shoemaker
NonfictionSTATE OF RESISTANCE by Manuel Pastor
by Manuel Pastor