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Down Mean Streets a Man Must Go: An Essay

From Alexis de Toxqueville to Jean Baudrillard, the French have maintained a fascination for the idea and the reality of the United States. They have seen in us a difference from themselves which, whether provoking or complimentary, has always furthered our own self-understanding.

In this exciting first book in a new series from the Getty Center, Andre Corboz has added another chapter to that tradition. In his richly perceptive essay, Corboz takes to task previous European analyses of the American city which, he suggests, are little more than reflections of their own old-world bad faith. Using post-modern Los Angeles—the L.A. of contemporary cultural theorists Frederic Jameson and Mike Davis—as the terrain upon which his argument advances, he makes the case for a new city without a center yet united by what he sees as a typically American gregarious individualism.

Corboz’s essay is accompanied by 104 “prepared” photographs of L.A. by photographer Dennis Keeley, whose arresting work discovers “moments that would otherwise go unnoticed.” The city Keeley presents in these moments comprises a visually impressive Los Angeles whose absent center validates its post-modern vision.

Each book in the series, designed by Bruce Mau of Zone Book fame, will be a handsome, self-jacketed paperback with colorful, bold, eye-catching covers, filled with black-and-white photographs of startling poignance.

Andre Corboz was a Swiss author, architect, and philosopher. He published several volumes of poetry and short stories in his youth, but he is now best known for his works on the history of cities and architecture. His first such work, Invention de Carouge, considered the architectural development of his neighborhood in Geneva. The success of this work allowed him to complete detailed studies of places as distant as cities in Russia and the United States. His works are considered classics in the field of architectural philosophy.