Geert Lovink on Wed, 12 Aug 2020 12:13:16 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Just out: Peter Lunenfeld's City at the Edge of Forever, his magnus opus about Los Angeles

“People with brains went to New York and people with faces came West.” Though she is one of the city’s most fervent defenders, Eve Babitz captures a prevalent sort of sentiment about her native Los Angeles. As we see in films like Mullholland Drive and Under the Silver Lake, the cultural identity of Los Angeles has been largely dominated by Hollywood and the glamourous and sinister entertainment industry—superficial, fickle, and ruthless.

Even during the Golden Age of Hollywood, the city faced critiques from the storied, East Coast bastions of art and thought as being vapid and lacking in cultural merit. With such a reputation to overcome, how has Los Angeles, over the course of the last century, become one of the world’s major cities—with unparalleled cultural, economic, and technological reach?

In CITY AT THE EDGE OF FOREVER: Los Angeles Reimagined UCLA professor and critic Peter Lunenfeld reconstructs the portrait of the city through unlikely associations, forgotten histories, and strange connections. In this LA, rocket science connects the occult teachings of Aleister Crowley, Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land, and Scientology; rock ‘n roll legends like Jim Morrison, Crosby, Stills & Nash, and Frank Zappa are inextricably linked with the aerospace industry and the military industrial complex; and, perhaps Walt Disney and Hugh Hefner weren’t so different after all.

Lunenfeld illustrates Los Angeles’s importance as an influential hub of design and modernism through the comparison of two husband and wife teams—historians Will and Ariel Durant and designer-architects Charles and Ray Eames. Joan Didion and local LA celebrity Angelyne are connected by way of the iconic Corvette Stingray—a car designed by Larry Shinoda, a Japanese American who was interned along with his family during World War II. The city’s development into a thriving locale for gastronomy dovetails with the arrival and popularity of Bruce Lee and martial arts.

Each chapter of CITY AT THE EDGE OF FOREVER reveals a new and unusual dimension to the history and development of the city. It is a wholly original and engaging account of the unique spirit and bustling landscape of modern Los Angeles.

Peter Lunenfeld is vice chair of UCLA's Design Media Arts department, and a faculty member in the Urban and Digital Humanities programs. He has published award-winning essays and several books with the MIT Press about the ways in which art, design, and technology intertwine, including The Secret War Between Downloading and Uploading: Tales of the Computer as Culture Machine. His historical and theoretical writings have been translated into more than a dozen languages. He has lived in Southern California for the last three decades.

“Immersive cultural history…Richly detailed and evocatively written this highly original account unearths L.A. stories ‘more complex [and] contradictory... than anything that ever made it to the screen.’Readers will be spellbound.”Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)


“A kaleidoscopic view of Los Angeles that looks beyond stereotypes… [Lunenfeld] makes a strong case for the city’s exceptionalism.”Kirkus Reviews
“Here is a title to be added to the list of great meditations on Los Angeles. City at the Edge of Forever is a book about southern California but it is also a book about all of us, about how fringes become mainstream, how politics morphs into culture, and how culture mutates uncontrollably under the American sun.”—Thomas Frank, author of What’s the Matter with Kansas?


CITY AT THE EDGE OF FOREVER Los Angeles Reimagined By Peter Lunenfeld Viking | On Sale: August 11, 2020 | Hardcover | ISBN: 9780525561934 | Price: $28.00

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