A Propulsive Collection from Late Culture Reporter Scott Timberg Debuts from Heyday

Boom Times for the End of the World gathers Timberg’s lively love letters and deftly wrought dirges to the creative class he chronicled.

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“A perfect journalistic valediction from one of LA’s finest commentators.”

—RICHARD THOMPSON, singer-songwriter, author of Beeswing

BERKELEY, CALIF. — Boom Times for the End of the World is a perceptive and prescient collection of cultural criticism from Scott Timberg, the late chronicler of the creative class and devotee of the prodigious dream machine of Los Angeles. In this work, the passionate arts journalist, author of the acclaimed Culture Crash (2015), plunges readers into the annals of Hollywood, the bullpens of alt-presses, and the backstages of the LA Philharmonic in a celebration of art’s meaning-making power and an assessment of its beleaguered relationship to the commercial market.

Featuring over two dozen essays published in the New York Times, Al Jazeera America, Vox, and others, this volume encompasses some of Timberg’s most incisive criticism and forward-thinking concerns about the creative economy—for instance, how popular music has digested decades of inequality; the collapsing hierarchy of high- and lowbrow art; and whether unions can save the creative class.

Formerly a staff writer for New Times LA, the Los Angeles Times, and Salon, Timberg was also no stranger to the turbulent freelance economy. Renowned by artists and peers for his omnivorous mind and unquenchable curiosity, he was described as a “polymath arts journalist” by the likes of Lynell George, Janet Fitch, and Charles McNulty and a “patron saint for all the forgotten writers, artists, musicians, and other victims of the gig economy,” by Ted Gioia (author of the Introduction to this volume). Grief rippled across the cultural ecosystem on the occasion of Timberg’s suicide on December 10, 2019, a shock still deeply felt by many admirers.

“Scott knew many things,” says musician and Galaxie 500 frontman Dean Wareham. “To paraphrase Isaiah Berlin, he was a fox, not a hedgehog, and this collection is the proof.”

“In an era of edgy hot takes and glib quick-hits, there is something soul satisfying in hearing Scott’s erudite voice again. A ravenous researcher, deep thinker and elegant wordsmith, Scott put his full heart into everything. […] It’s such a gift to finally have some of his finest observations and meditations collected between two covers.”

LYNELL GEORGE, author of A Handful of Earth, A Handful of Sky

“This insightful compendium brings together highlights from the career of Los Angeles Times reporter Timberg (Culture Crash), who died in 2019. […] The selections attest to the richness of Timberg’s analysis and demonstrate that the author was as comfortable dissecting the legacy of pianist Glenn Gould and the stories of Ray Bradbury as he was Spike Jonze films and lyrics by rap group the Coup. […] This is a fitting testament to a skilled cultural critic.”


“As much a love letter to California as it is to the artists that Timberg championed, this posthumous collection gathers pieces that are deep and meditative, creating a narrative about the trajectory of culture, at times exciting, often disappointing, and always interesting.”


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Scott Timberg, a former arts reporter for the LA Weekly and the Los Angeles Times, wrote on music and culture and was a contributor to Salon, the New York Times, and Vox. He was an award-winning journalist, a blogger on West Coast culture, and an adjunct writing professor. His previous book, Culture Crash: The Killing of the Creative Class, was published in 2015 by Yale University Press. Richard Brody of the New Yorker called Culture Crash “a quietly radical rethinking of the very nature of art in modern life,” and Ben Downing, writing in the Wall Street Journal, said, “Mr. Timberg succeeds in assembling a large, coherent, and troubling mosaic . . . weaving all manner of information and opinion into a fluent narrative of cultural decline.” Timberg died by his own hand on December 10, 2019, in Pasadena, California. He was fifty years old.

An excerpt from the Introduction by Ted Gioia

For many of us, Scott’s death revealed uncanny and disturbing connections with his professional life over the last decade, when he emerged as our leading chronicler and champion of creative professionals who had been squeezed and displaced in the “culture business.” This large and growing demographic included, as he saw it, everyone from journalists like himself all the way to the film lover who once worked at the local video rental store (before it closed) or the minimum-wage clerk at the defunct indie bookstore.

They had all been part of a healthy cultural ecosystem, and he had watched it collapse over the course of just a few years.

And then it happened to him too.

But at first there were successes. After working for The Day in Connecticut and the alt-weekly New Times in SoCal, Scott got hired by the Los Angeles Times. This was the ideal job for him, and again and again he delivered remarkable articles on tight deadline, never losing his enthusiasm for the next concert, the latest art exhibition, the forthcoming book, the hot new film, and anything else that came his way.

Scott had a knack for finding the best in the cultural scene on the dream coast. We would have long, rambling conversations about California—which for him was a rich tapestry in which the threads, on any given day, might include West Coast jazz, Ross Macdonald’s Lew Archer mysteries, Spike Jonze’s movies, Ed Ruscha’s pop art, Robinson Jeffers’s Hawk Tower, sci-fi from Ray Bradbury or Philip K. Dick, La La Land, L.A. Confidential, the California history books of Kevin Starr, the photos of William Claxton, or Gustavo Dudamel’s latest performance. Some of those turned up as subjects in his published writings, but the surviving articles and essays only begin to sketch out his endless curiosity and passion for his adopted home state.

He saw the challenges he faced echoed in the lives of so many others, and he cared deeply about all those who suffered in the same way he did. The notion that his abbreviated life might serve as a rallying point for the compassion owed to those squeezed by our culture shift would have given Scott a small bit of gratification. I know it provides me with some consolation.

But Scott would also want people to remember the joy and exhilaration he felt in pursuing his chosen vocation. His selected writings do just that. Here he still survives in the role he played best: the passionate and earnest culture writer who loved his misread city. I only wish it had loved him half as much in return.