Publishers Weekly Review

Posted by peterlunenfeld on June 22nd, 2020 filed in Uncategorized

Publisher Weekly offered up a starred review!

UCLA digital media scholar Lunenfeld (coauthor, Digital_Humanities) draws surprising links between the artistic, economic, and political milieus of Los Angeles in this immersive cultural history. Casting his adopted hometown as an “alchemical city,” Lunenfeld explores how L.A.’s identity has been shaped by its embodiment of the five classical elements: available land (earth) was gobbled up by Yankee settlers and real estate speculators in the 19th century; nearby oil fields (fire) fueled the cars that made suburban development possible in the early 20th century; the aerospace industry (air) took off from WWII through the 1980s; the city’s ports (water) have been a key driver of globalization since the 1990s; and the allure of Hollywood (aether) has captured the world’s imagination for more than a century. Highlighting L.A.’s melting pot nature, Lunenfeld writes that southern California’s surfing craze and its modernist architecture both owe their existence to émigrés from the Austro-Hungarian empire, connects the Jet Propulsion Laboratory to sci-fi fandom and cosplay, and traces the roots of the city’s “resolutely contemporary” Asian food scene to 1950s and ’60s tiki bars. 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.

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