A LOS ANGELES TIMES BESTSELLER. NAMED A BEST CALIFORNIA BOOKS OF 2021 BY THE NEW YORK TIMES
A provocative, exhilaratingly new understanding of the United States’ most confounding metropolis—not just a great city, but a full-blown modern city-state
America is obsessed with Los Angeles. And America has been thinking about Los Angeles all wrong, for decades, on repeat. Los Angeles is not just the place where the American dream hits the Pacific. (It has its own dreams.) Not just the vanishing point of America’s western drive. (It has its own compass.) Functionally, aesthetically, mythologically, even technologically, an independent territory, defined less by distinct borders than by an aura of autonomy and a sense of unfurling destiny—this is the city-state of Los Angeles.
Deeply reported and researched, provocatively argued, and eloquently written, Rosecrans Baldwin's Everything Now approaches the metropolis from unexpected angles, nimbly interleaving his own voice with a chorus of others, from canonical L.A. literature to everyday citizens. Here, Octavia E. Butler and Joan Didion are in conversation with activists and astronauts, vampires and veterans. Baldwin records the stories of countless Angelenos, discovering people both upended and reborn: by disasters natural and economic, following gospels of wealth or self-help or personal destiny. The result is a story of a kaleidoscopic, vibrant nation unto itself—vastly more than its many, many parts.
Baldwin’s concept of the city-state allows us, finally, to grasp a place—Los Angeles—whose idiosyncrasies both magnify those of America, and are so fully its own. Here, space and time don’t quite work the same as they do elsewhere, and contradictions are as stark as southern California’s natural environment. Perhaps no better place exists to watch the United States’s past, and its possible futures, play themselves out.
Welcome to Los Angeles, the Great American City-State.
Novelist and essayist Baldwin (Paris, I Love You but You're Bringing Me Down) delivers a witty and imaginative survey of contemporary L.A. With a population of more than 10 million, greater L.A. "is less a metropolis than an eighty-eight-city nation state," according to Baldwin, who explores the region's "relationship to its citizens" by attending a Mastery in Transformational Training Workshop, where "the biggest epiphanies were still one course away"; accompanying aid workers as they scout migrant trails near the Mexican border; and spending time in the 50-block area of downtown L.A. known as "Skid Row." He also interviews city residents, including a labor trafficking victim who was rescued by the FBI and Jet Propulsion Laboratory engineer Marleen Martinez Sundgaard, whose migrant farmer parents "made her go out into the fields at a young age... to know her family's sacrifices." Throughout, Baldwin shares eye-opening statistics (80% of children enrolled in the L.A. Unified School District live below the poverty line) and weaves in colorful historical snippets and reflections on the city from writers including Héctor Tobar, Joan Didion, and Octavia Butler. This multifaceted, openhearted account reveals L.A. as a "shifting mosaic of human potential" unlike any other place in the world.