Tuesday, July 3, 2018

The Mirage Factory: Illusion, Imagination, and the Invention of Los Angeles, by Gary Krist. Crown, 2018

I’ve read a good bit about the early days of Los Angeles, so there were parts of this book that had me wondering if I’d read this one before. Obviously, no. But there are just only so many ways of describing an event.

Krist tells LA’s story by focusing on three people who were important in shaping the development of old LA: William Mulholland, D.W. Griffith, and Aimee Semple McPherson. Mulholland was the engineer who found a (temporary) solution to Los Angeles’s lack of water: drain the Owens Valley of what they thought was ample water. It was him that allowed the green lawns and lush gardens that existed for decades, before water restrictions hit. D.W. Griffith was a director working during the birth of motion pictures, who made movies an art instead of hamminess - and also made one of the most racist movies ever, The Birth of a Nation. McPherson was an evangelist who moved from the mid-west to LA to found a church that is still going- and created a space for non-mainline religions in the city. All three shaped LA; all three ended up more or less in disgrace.

What makes this book different from the other “Old LA” books I’ve read is the amount of detail Krist has put into it. He’s dug a lot deeper than most others. Even though I knew the stories of Mulholland and Griffith, their stories held my attention- especially the part about the St. Francis dam failure that killed 400 people- I had never heard of that event! The chapters alternate between the three main characters; they never weave together even though they all were working during the same era. Enjoyable to read and full of facts. Four stars. 

The above is an affiliate link. If you click through and buy something- anything- from Amazon, they will give me a few cents. 

I received my copy of this book free from Net Galley in return for an honest review. 

Neither of these things influenced my review. 

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