by James Howard Kunstler ‧ RELEASE DATE: Oct. 1, 1996
A somewhat disjointed but still thought-provoking examination of the ways in which American cities and towns make us bad citizens. In The Geography of Nowhere (1993) Kunstler took on the blandness and monoculture of the American suburb. Here he extends his sometimes scattershot argument to remark that while suburbs are ""a profoundly uncivil living arrangement,"" our cities are increasingly remade as if to intentionally prevent the human interaction from which civil society grows. ""It is hard,"" he writes, ""to imagine a culture less concerned than ours with the things that make life worth living,"" like clean, tree-lined streets and self-contained neighborhoods. His argument is diffuse, sometimes unfocused, but Kunstler's call to reinvent our towns is nonetheless well taken. Along the way, he offers reports on communities attempting to fight back; analyzes the decline of the unzoned, multiple-use, Main Street in favor of compartmentalized residential, commercial, and industrial zones; looks at the segregation of the poor into housing projects that keep them from interacting with other social classes; and examines the advent of a modernist architectural aesthetic that says, he maintains, ""We don't care what goes on outside our building."" Among the high points in a book full of good observations is a clear discourse on property taxes, as well as Kunstler's rant that since WW II we have become, ""by sheer inertia, a nation of overfed clowns, crybabies, slackers, deadbeats, sadists, cads, whores, and crooks."" These are harsh words from a self-described old hippie, but Kunstler's attack on a society that seems bent on denying its problems is not at all unwelcome. Give this good book, which dreams of life ""in a nice town in a civilized country,"" to your local town planner.
Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1996
Page Count: 320
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1996
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