PositiveLos Angeles Review of BooksThe book explores what happens when, having put the best words in the best order, the author looks around and doesn’t know where he is. He can’t go back; he can’t make it new—he can only start again. But that humid malaise travels with him, an ambivalent funk he can neither embrace nor wave goodbye to, believe in nor dismiss. He can only name it. Call it Summerland ... Again and again, from its epigraph to its acknowledgments, Swanson’s book tells a story of the end of myth. It’s self-reflexive that way, and unironic, since narrative remains what folks want ... One of the collection’s most powerful essays (and one that compelled me to look up \'lallating,\' \'brume,\' and \'vade mecum\') focuses on a group of antiwar vets who find their own back-to-the-land movement in the soil of an organic farm ... The titular essay, Lost in Summerland, stands out both as the abysm of the book’s rich ambivalence and the moment where the author gives up, seemingly worn down by the effort of not knowing ... It’s a little inveigling...adrift on our hot ponds of ambivalence, to keep rhapsodizing the steam rising off the surface ... yet it’s not the healing promises of organic farming or collective action or even paid time off that stirs the author to belief, but his brother’s baffling clairvoyance.
MixedLos Angeles Review of BooksDyja’s history is a pixelated montage, embellished with oaken references to Elaine’s and the Yankees, but also indebted to Google searches and online newspapers for its density of anecdotes about artists and ABC execs, among hundreds of minor socialites and city officials ... As for the mayors, although we occasionally learn where they eat dinner, Ed Koch, David Dinkins, Rudy Giuliani, and Michael Bloomberg appear less as people than as public-facing metaphors for the changes they wrought or took credit for ... the book’s main characters are concepts, which Dyja even capitalizes: Growth, Information, and Lifestyle. As characters, such themes can’t inspire the empathy or contempt ... This works insofar as it demonstrates Dyja’s main thesis ... Throughout the book, Dyja gives the sense that public-private collaborations were—possibly are—the only way to save the city, albeit with a bit of melancholy for the noblesse oblige of Rockefeller et al ... The future, Dyja writes, is what we make it. At the same time, his vision of urbanism includes precious little agency for individual or collective actors who don’t make epochal piles of money. For us, there are the margins. Dyja’s book has little power of prophecy, except to say that New York will always be New York—that there have been and will be disasters, of which COVID-19 is something like the third so far this century—and the silt of the next renaissance is there already.