To write the definitive book about Los Angeles would be impossible. In Everything Now, the novelist Rosecrans Baldwin doesn’t try. And in not trying, he may have written the perfect book about Los Angeles ... Freewheeling and polyhedral, the book could serve equally as an ornament on the coffee table of a Silver Lake architect; a pamphlet at an anti-deportation rally downtown; or a primer beside bound scripts in a filmmaking class ... Baldwin embodies the 19th-century flâneur: alighting here and there in space and time, spending a while, passing through, pulling over. A Baudelaire of Bel Air; a painter of post-postmodern life ... None of these visits feel like drive-bys, or postcards from the edge. Perhaps because of Baldwin’s asides...These minutiae are central to our understanding of this place that is as overcrowded as it is desolate; sometimes friendly, but never cozy ... And if Everything Now is not the first to remark on the double meaning of Angelenos 'needing validation' — for parking but also their souls — no matter. Consider Baldwin’s ticket stamped.
... deeply empathetic and insightful ... how does the author wrap his arms around this complex city-state? By delivering poignant miniatures of individuals who make it their business to subvert L.A.’s stasis and apathy—the prevalent view that the individual is helpless in the absence of the state ... gives us dark glimpses of an impending apocalypse, then introduces us to a handful of resilient Angelenos doing their best to buck the tide of indifference that seems to have crept into the political and social life of the place like a toxic marine layer ... Like the city, the stories in Rosecrans Baldwin’s Everything Now have no rigid order. But the book is stronger for these digressions. An elegant and unflinching observer, Mr. Baldwin digs up an invisible city under layers of pop-culture mythologizing and media cliches.
... presents endless opportunities for an enterprising writer, and Baldwin has written the best book on the subject since City of Quartz. He helicopters his broader narrative down at carefully-chosen points in the city’s history ... This kind of kaleidoscopic approach is a risk, since it forfeits most narrative cohesion in its quest for momentum, but Baldwin makes it pay off ... It certainly conveys the persistent strangeness of the place, and this is hugely helped by Baldwin’s uncanny ability to get the best quotes out of the endless people he interviews over endless drinks in endless tacky bars. He’s amassed so many of these choice quotes that he can deploy them as punch lines ... If you’re not already under the odd spell that LA so often casts on even people who’ve never visited it, you’ll feel the light brushing of that spell while reading these pages; if you find the whole idea of Los Angeles vaguely, indefinably revolting, Baldwin’s anecdotes will make you seethe delectably with vicarious disapproval; and if you are indeed already bewitched by LA, you now have a new piece of required reading.
After discussing Hollywood, Baldwin mesmerically captures the horrors of recent forest fires and the 2018 mudslides, events that have scarred the landscape and its residents. In the final section, perhaps the strongest, Baldwin looks at the tragic and inexcusable inequality that divides L.A. Full of surprising facts and anecdotes, this is a compelling, thoroughly researched, and lovingly crafted chronicle of how Los Angeles came to be.
The writing is engaging, and the author argues for the city-state label in a variety of ways, but the book seems like a rather disjointed series of essays and quotes that happen to have a loose association to Los Angeles and its surroundings. The somewhat sprawling narrative takes detours to explore LA’s relation to California in general, and the wide-ranging effects of the city’s ongoing gentrification and its impact on Black and Latinx residents ... Was the city-state argument convincing? Unfortunately, no. Was the book interesting to read? Undoubtedly, yes. This book would appeal to readers who enjoy narrative nonfiction, essays, or life in Los Angeles.
... there’s not much new in these pages, which tend to the aridly bookish without the charm and good humor of the author’s entertaining Paris, I Love You but You’re Bringing Me Down (2012). At one point, Baldwin quotes or cites three books in a mere 12 lines, which is at least intellectually honest: He’s not presenting anyone else’s thoughts as his own, an unusual bit of purity in the bricolage culture of Hollywood. On that note, the author is at his best when he tests commonly accepted tropes and finds many wanting. The narrative takes on topical urgency when it addresses issues of racial and social justice ... Baldwin is worth reading on all those scores but only after one has ingested the works of Mike Davis, Reyner Banham, Gustavo Arellano, Joan Didion, David Ulin, and others ... A footnote to larger and more in-depth portraits of the City of Angels, though not without merit.