Slouching toward Los Angeles on an alternately pleasant and frustrating detour-filled highway.

A kaleidoscopic view of Los Angeles that looks beyond stereotypes of “freeways, sprawl, movie stars, and New Age nonsense.”

Lunenfeld, a native New Yorker who is now a professor of design media arts at UCLA, pens a valentine to his adopted city, where he moved to attend graduate school. Erudite and fact-packed but self-indulgent and inefficiently organized, his book rests on the conceit that LA has moved through interlocking phases corresponding to the five elements of alchemy—“from earth to fire to air to water” and the more elusive “aether” or “the quintessence.” That framework gives Lunenfeld ample and welcome room to cover often overlooked topics such as the city’s once-powerful aerospace industry and the ports of LA and Long Beach, whose waters are “the largest and busiest in the United States.” Throughout, the author forges many offbeat connections. He links, among others, Walt Disney and Hugh Hefner (both of whom let people enter a “dreamscape” and interact with its denizens, Mickey at Disneyland and the bunnies at Playboy clubs) and two married couples who blazed trails as they combined work and love: midcentury-modern designers Charles and Ray Eames and the authors Will and Arial Durant. Lunenfeld’s “alchemical” stages overlap and progress in nonlinear ways, which leads to continual jump-cuts back and forth in time, place, and theme, an approach that can be disorienting. The text sometimes devolves into tourist-board prose: No other metropolitan area, writes the author, “can boast of the presence of two presidential libraries,” Nixon’s and Reagan’s. Unlike Joan Didion—that austere, minimalist bard of California—Lunenfeld is a maximalist who overstuffs his argument that LA triumphed through “its ramp-up of the arts, architecture, design, cuisines, music, theater, and literary cultures, not to mention technical and scientific accomplishments, at a speed and with a reach unprecedented in human history.” He makes a strong case for the city’s exceptionalism, but via a route that requires the patience of navigating the LA freeways.

Slouching toward Los Angeles on an alternately pleasant and frustrating detour-filled highway.

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-56193-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: April 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020


The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006


A clearly delineated guide to finally eradicate poverty in America.

A thoughtful program for eradicating poverty from the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Evicted.

“America’s poverty is not for lack of resources,” writes Desmond. “We lack something else.” That something else is compassion, in part, but it’s also the lack of a social system that insists that everyone pull their weight—and that includes the corporations and wealthy individuals who, the IRS estimates, get away without paying upward of $1 trillion per year. Desmond, who grew up in modest circumstances and suffered poverty in young adulthood, points to the deleterious effects of being poor—among countless others, the precarity of health care and housing (with no meaningful controls on rent), lack of transportation, the constant threat of losing one’s job due to illness, and the need to care for dependent children. It does not help, Desmond adds, that so few working people are represented by unions or that Black Americans, even those who have followed the “three rules” (graduate from high school, get a full-time job, wait until marriage to have children), are far likelier to be poor than their White compatriots. Furthermore, so many full-time jobs are being recast as contracted, fire-at-will gigs, “not a break from the norm as much as an extension of it, a continuation of corporations finding new ways to limit their obligations to workers.” By Desmond’s reckoning, besides amending these conditions, it would not take a miracle to eliminate poverty: about $177 billion, which would help end hunger and homelessness and “make immense headway in driving down the many agonizing correlates of poverty, like violence, sickness, and despair.” These are matters requiring systemic reform, which will in turn require Americans to elect officials who will enact that reform. And all of us, the author urges, must become “poverty abolitionists…refusing to live as unwitting enemies of the poor.” Fortune 500 CEOs won’t like Desmond’s message for rewriting the social contract—which is precisely the point.

A clearly delineated guide to finally eradicate poverty in America.

Pub Date: March 21, 2023

ISBN: 9780593239919

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2023

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