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Wednesday, December 11th, 2002


Dead Cities and Other Tales

by Mike Davis

Mike Davis's Big-City Blues

A review by Adrienne Miller

Two of Mike Davis's previous books, City of Quartz and Ecology of Fear, are required reading for anyone who feels a little, well, anxious nowadays. And who doesn't, what with the destruction of the environment (which should certainly be a bigger news story than the war in Iraq), the fact that ecosystems are being decimated by our very own government, and the knowledge that the human race will probably cease to exist at some point not so far away? Los Angeles is Davis's great theme, and continues to be, in Dead Cities, a collection of his urgent, bone-chilling and ultimately very sad essays from the early nineties onward. L.A., the city we built to contain our dreams, has become the stuff of nightmares -- plagued by ecological catastrophes, corporate corruption, despair. What do the cities we create say about us? It's not pretty. In this new work, Davis, prophet of doom, urban theorist, lefty, also considers Hawaii ("eventually all the world's ruggedly beautiful landscapes of toil and struggle seem destined to be repackaged as 'heritage' "), Las Vegas ("no other city in the American West seems to be as driven by occult forces"), New York, and what 9/11 means for the extinction of skyscrapers. The older essays, which are largely about how our cities are killing us, seem chillingly prescient now, and, I'm afraid, right.

Adrienne Miller is Esquire's literary editor.

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