Read The History of Forgetting: Los Angeles and the Erasure of Memory (Haymarket) by Norman M. Klein Online


Los Angeles is a city which has long thrived on the continual re-creation of own myth. In this extraordinary and original work, Norman Klein examines the process of memory erasure in LA. Using a provocative mixture of fact and fiction, the book takes us on an ‘anti-tour’ of downtown LA, examines life for Vietnamese immigrants in the City of Dreams, imagines Walter BenjaminLos Angeles is a city which has long thrived on the continual re-creation of own myth. In this extraordinary and original work, Norman Klein examines the process of memory erasure in LA. Using a provocative mixture of fact and fiction, the book takes us on an ‘anti-tour’ of downtown LA, examines life for Vietnamese immigrants in the City of Dreams, imagines Walter Benjamin as a Los Angeleno, and finally looks at the way information technology has recreated the city, turning cyberspace into the last suburb....

Title : The History of Forgetting: Los Angeles and the Erasure of Memory (Haymarket)
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781859841754
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 330 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The History of Forgetting: Los Angeles and the Erasure of Memory (Haymarket) Reviews

  • Debra
    2019-03-27 23:00

    I probably shouldn't write a review of this, as I didn't finish it due to getting crazy busy with other stuff and having to return it to the library. That was too bad as what I read was surprisingly good for an academic book. It takes an art historical critique of urbanism and urban planning in Los Angeles and stretches it from your usual academic writing about this sort of thing to a number of fictional pieces (including one that imagines Walter Benjamin in LA!) and a whole bunch of psychogeography about the imperfect and often distorted feedback loop between the representation of LA in film, lived experiences of the city, and urban planning/public policy.There's a lot in here on questions around who has the right to the city (to simplify, power) and how urban planning has a bad track record of changing urban spaces and cultures without really engaging in them. This includes immediately post-City of Quartz critiques of the representations of urban areas and their inhabitants and how these are used in constructing malign public policies. There are some particularly prescient parts of the book on representation and policing which came out of the immediate aftermath of the Rodney King beating and trial, which are still relevant twenty years later as Black Lives Matter reminds us.Unlike a lot of art history books, this one shows a depth of research and an interest in understanding the complexity of urban areas and populations. Unlike a lot of planning books, it not only acknowledges but foregrounds the ways that representation is used to create reality, or at least images of reality that are then projected back by powerful and interested parties until they become 'truth'. This successful cross-disciplinarity manifests in some great lines, such as, 'this is classic boosterist language, like a cross between the Apostles and a salesman's handbook, as if a deal has been cut with God about how to promote real estate " (27).Writing this review makes me wish that a) I had more time these days, and b) I was spending that time in Los Angeles. But it also reminds me how so much of how what often seems inexplicable in urban history is built on the power of images and the imaginary.

  • Mike
    2019-03-23 23:41

    An ambitious and utterly powerful, staggering, work of urban history and the history of planning, concerned with how LA has time after time reinvented itself, often to the chagrin of long-time residents. There is, in essence, the author argues no historical Los Angeles but only the present-tense. The author, a professor of history and long-time resident of LA himself, picks up where Mike Davis left off with his seminal City of Quartz, refining the working theory of how Los Angeles began building itself around an expected commodities culture (water, then steel and agriculture) before turning to a sprawling residential neighborhood-based approach that left the city center poorly-defined and specific neighborhoods at the mercy of being hot locations one decade only to be in danger of being abandoned, razed, and re-developed the next. The prime thesis here is that only by "forgetting" can LA continue its treble-chase towards the future; while NYC and other world-class cities thrive on history, LA thrives on what is yet to be—not what has been. A very welcome and powerful book: I would however suggest reading Davis' book first, because it is referenced in places here and also it forms the basis for the type of understanding of LA's formative years you will need to fully appreciate Klein's work at hand.

  • Sally Edsall
    2019-04-20 19:44

    I read this book while waiting for delivery of the more well-known book `City of Quartz' by Mike Davis. I am glad I read this one first. It is a well-documented and scholarly book, yet full of passion and feeling about the City of the Angels. It focuses almost exclusively on `Downtown', whereas Davis's book ranges more widely.I was left in no doubt about Klein's feeling for that part of LA - he lives in Anegelino Heights - the first suburb just north of Downtown. Klein brings to life through personal anecdote the vitality and multiculturalism (and problems) of his, and other neighbourhoods.You get to boo and hiss at the villains who have alienated greater LA from its Downtown, but you also get a sense of Klein's affection, and sense of hope for the city.Davis's view is much bleaker and perhaps nihilistic - he rails against the racism upon which LA is foundered, and upon which the powerful thrive, but I note in passing that he lives in the uppermiddle class enclave of Pasadena. Klein, on the other hand (at least at the time of writing) remains part of the inner urban fabric of the city. I get the feeling that Klein is a supporter of urban renewal, whereas Davis views it as another alienating con on the part of City Hall.The novella within the book doesn't quite work. I think it contains the seeds of a good story in another genre, but is misplaced here. One problem may be the attempt to speak in a voice for which he has respect, but which is not his.If you are interested in all things LA, film and fictive noir, the great upheavals and crises of a city such as the Rodney King affair and the LAPD, apocalyptic LA, and more - all of which penetrate the consciousness of many way way beyond the city (through globalised media, which is part of the fabric of LA) , then you will be enthralled by this book. Read it alongside Davis, by all means, but don't neglect it in favour of Davis!If you like discussion of film and fiction set in LA, there is lots in this book to ponder.Note: Klein cites Davis in his work. I have not seen Klein cited in any work of Davis (understandable in City of Quartz, which predates Klein's work, but he also does not appear in the index for Davis's later work Ecology of Fear - which at the time of writing this I have not yet read)

  • Travis
    2019-03-29 23:50

    This book was kind of a mish-mash of the history of LA, LA in fiction, and some actual fiction about LA. The latter is the weakest part of the book and I think dropping it would have made it a better book overall. A random sixty-page novella dropped in the middle of a work of non-fiction could possibly be made to work, but it didn't here, at least not for me.I did like the parts that were actual history of LA and a look at how LA has been portrayed in books and movies over the years. This was published about twenty years ago and a lot has changed downtown since then, and I'd be interested to see the author's thoughts on those changes. It looks like an updated version of the book was released about ten years ago, but even that was before the real downtown revival.

  • Bennett
    2019-04-03 19:45

    Far more palatable than Mike Davis' seminal work of adverbial porn "City of Quartz," Klein delivers a well researched book about how the DNA of Los Angeles is built around fixing perceived mistakes by destroying them and in turn, building something new and "contemporary" (I use that term in the temporal sense) in its place without thought of the historical ramifications. In turn, the city loses a sense of identity because of constant self-destructive reinvention.I'd argue that this has changed in the millenium (the book was originally written in 1997) but some of the vestiges of its 20th century mentality still remain. In that sense, the book feels a bit dated, but I think it deserves to be part of the academic pantheon of non-fiction books about Los Angeles and how it came to be. Still, there is this bizarre fiction substory in the middle about a Vietnam immigrant which I found neither interesting nor illuminating which is why I'm not rating higher than four stars.

  • Ian
    2019-04-11 19:02

    "So do not get confused by the glitz. Outwardly, scripted places like Victoria Gardens, or Citywalk, or the Grove may look anti-urban; artificial [...] They seem to epitomize neoliberalism, where every public act is privatized [...] But actually this is meta-urbanism: a metropolitanized suburb (a way to grow public money) [...] The message is paradoxical. These scripted illusions are monuments to the independence of cities, but also to private wealth taking over [...] [C]ities must turn in to destination resorts [...]" (327)."Of course, Los Angeles merely joins a national, even global trend [...] It offers newly scrubbed historicism -- erasure posing as memory. It is a social imaginary for the industrial city: it misremembers wartime L.A., before downtown 'vanished'" (329)."But we should not dismiss this retro-future downtown as merely a 'fake'. Simply put, we live in an age dominated by Artifice" (331).

  • Patricia
    2019-04-15 23:09

    I struggled to finish the book. If the writer fills Part V Conclusion with 4 chapters: Chapter 12 , Appendix, Afterword and Epilogue, he makes clear to me that he finds it hard to choose what to tell and what to leave out. Nevertheless, I enjoyed reading so many narratives and witnessing how Klein dismantles these narratives about Los Angeles. It certainly deepens my understanding of this "hard-to-get" city. Klein states that LA is a master in erasing and forgetting its history and he proves his statement with numerous movies, novels and documentaries. He adds his own novellas and docufabels to fill in gabs and illustrate the amnesia. Capitalism (Boosters), Politics and Government ("the twinbeast- rascist neglect and ruthless planning", p.249) are the initiators of erasures and forgetting. Let's not forget to re-read this book once in a while!

  • Malcolm
    2019-04-07 19:49

    LA is one of those cities we all like to think we know, after all we see it in our mass and popular cultural texts, hear it in the news, read it all over - its sheer ubiquity makes it a know. Norman Klein challenges that notion to argue that our knowledge of LA is a kbowledge based on forgetting, that is popular and mass cultural texts make LA an unknown and continually invwented and reconstrcuted before our very eyes. Contrarian and as such quite brilliantly insightful.

  • Rebecca
    2019-03-23 23:09

    It is always dangerous to post an academic book as it is easy for them to go unfinished. That said, so far this book is incredible! I am absolutely loving it and it is speaking to the intersection of a whole lot of stuff I am currently fascinated by. Note: Goodreads has just made me aware there is an updated version. That is not the one I'm reading but now I hope to rectify that situation :(

  • Raina
    2019-04-18 22:11

    delightful account of the history (or erasure of) of LA. loved the chapter about LA in the cinematic imagination (like Blade runner etc). for urbanists or anything interesting in cities of the future.

  • Katy
    2019-03-22 20:46

    wonderful book. a must read for anyone who is interested in los angeles history and cultural theory.

  • Patricia L.
    2019-03-22 16:51

    This book is like no other I have read. Even if you don't remember that you are interested in LA, it is brilliant way to write about a place.

  • Maxwell Harwitt
    2019-03-28 15:54

    "Why do research when I can just write a whole book of history and earn a teaching position from conjectures based on the little I currently know about the subject?"

  • KetchupKat
    2019-04-11 22:55

    I read this for a class, so it was inevitably tedious at times. It didn't help that there were typos...