ASPHALT NATION

HOW THE AUTOMOBILE TOOK OVER AMERICA AND HOW WE CAN TAKE IT BACK

A committed, soft-spoken diatribe against the car culture that romanticizes the alternatives, by the architecture critic for the Nation. Kay marshals all the expected arguments plus a host of novel ones (behind the wheel ``we forfeit the . . . right to muse''), addressing issues of social, political, industrial, and individual responsibility, and costs to health, to ecosystems, to humane and aesthetic ideals. In a long-winded and discursive narrative, she makes the case that the proliferation of highways generates more traffic and exponentially more accidents, pollution, and by extension more sprawl, more waste (antifreeze, tires, etc.), and more environmental toxins. Her most sobering chapter examines the spiraling inequity of automotive disenfranchisement for the poor and older citizens: the destruction of poor urban neighborhoods for highway projects, the diversion of public monies away from public transit. After identifying the symptoms of ``car glut,'' Kay looks at the history of the problem, citing Franklin Roosevelt for ratifying the motorization of America with the New Deal road-making programs and postwar Veterans Administration mortgages for enabling suburban single-family housing (which spurred the growth of the Interstate Highway System and suburban sprawl). Kay advocates housing centralization and calls for the development and linkage of quality train and trolley systems; for rezoning to legalize multifamily and pluralistic building usage; and for city and town design that fosters walkability, privacy, and pleasure. Also, she recommends levying higher tolls and gasoline taxes, smog fees, and peak-congestion fees to discourage driving, and contends that the polity must say no to future highway expansion. There's little question that Kay's earnest arguments are compelling, but they seem to downplay the difficulties (and costs) involved in getting from our present situation to this new world, and the impact that such changes would have on an American economy deeply dependent on the automobile. They also ignore the essential fact that Americans have largely embraced a car culture.

Pub Date: April 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-517-58702-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1997

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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DEAR MR. HENSHAW

Possibly inspired by the letters Cleary has received as a children's author, this begins with second-grader Leigh Botts' misspelled fan letter to Mr. Henshaw, whose fictitious book itself derives from the old take-off title Forty Ways W. Amuse a Dog. Soon Leigh is in sixth grade and bombarding his still-favorite author with a list of questions to be answered and returned by "next Friday," the day his author report is due. Leigh is disgruntled when Mr. Henshaw's answer comes late, and accompanied by a set of questions for Leigh to answer. He threatens not to, but as "Mom keeps nagging me about your dumb old questions" he finally gets the job done—and through his answers Mr. Henshaw and readers learn that Leigh considers himself "the mediumest boy in school," that his parents have split up, and that he dreams of his truck-driver dad driving him to school "hauling a forty-foot reefer, which would make his outfit add up to eighteen wheels altogether. . . . I guess I wouldn't seem so medium then." Soon Mr. Henshaw recommends keeping a diary (at least partly to get Leigh off his own back) and so the real letters to Mr. Henshaw taper off, with "pretend," unmailed letters (the diary) taking over. . . until Leigh can write "I don't have to pretend to write to Mr. Henshaw anymore. I have learned to say what I think on a piece of paper." Meanwhile Mr. Henshaw offers writing tips, and Leigh, struggling with a story for a school contest, concludes "I think you're right. Maybe I am not ready to write a story." Instead he writes a "true story" about a truck haul with his father in Leigh's real past, and this wins praise from "a real live author" Leigh meets through the school program. Mr. Henshaw has also advised that "a character in a story should solve a problem or change in some way," a standard juvenile-fiction dictum which Cleary herself applies modestly by having Leigh solve his disappearing lunch problem with a burglar-alarmed lunch box—and, more seriously, come to recognize and accept that his father can't be counted on. All of this, in Leigh's simple words, is capably and unobtrusively structured as well as valid and realistic. From the writing tips to the divorced-kid blues, however, it tends to substitute prevailing wisdom for the little jolts of recognition that made the Ramona books so rewarding.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 1983

ISBN: 143511096X

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1983

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