In 2005, The Atlantic sent French writer Bernard-Henri Levi out across America to retrace the steps of Alexis de Tocqueville. In Levi's estimation, Los Angeles was "the prototype of a city with a poorly developed language, the prototype of unintelligible, illegible discourse." He argued that Southern California's sprawling metropolis lacked a center, a recognizable border, a vantage point where it could be "embraced in a single glance," and a heart, or historic neighborhood "whose historicity continues to shape, engender, inspire, the rest of the urban space." He closed by predicting "with some certainty" that L.A. was going to die.

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