THE NINE NATIONS OF NORTH AMERICA by Joel Garreau

THE NINE NATIONS OF NORTH AMERICA

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A couple of years ago Washington Post editor Garreau wrote an article for his paper, remapping the US and its neighbors along regional-outlook lines, and got a big response--understandably, for it's seductive to think (as he puts it in the first chapter here) that power ""has been dispersed,"" that people can now select a pace of living, can pick and choose among values, attitudes, ""relationships to nature."" It's bracing, too, not to think of the whole US as declining, only one no-longer-focal region: the old industrial northeast, here called ""The Foundry."" And his nine new entities/identities do have, beyond a basis in fact, the power to throw sudden light on myriad phenomena--from the artificiality of state (and even national) boundaries to the reasons for conflicts of interest. So the idea is likely to get around and get a play, regardless of how many people actually stick with his long free-form follow-up tour. Interest will vary, probably, in inverse relation to how much one already knows about a given ""nation."" Thus, New Englanders are apt to yawn when they read about high technology and human scale--while square tomatoes are old hat in MexAmerica (mid-California to mid-Texas), runaway resource-development doesn't rate as news in The Empty Quarter (Colorado up through most of Canada), and you don't have to be a farmer to know about the impossible price of land in The Breadbasket. But there are probably those who haven't picked up the less-publicized extent to which South Florida is now part of The Islands, nor recognized the centrality of work, any work, in The Foundry. Here, too, Garreau asks, though he doesn't quite answer, just the right question: is the decline of The Foundry rational, ""as opposed to emotional""? And wherever he alights, he has some local operation or front-line personality to wrap his point around--or, in the latter instance, to make some points for him. (Few, however, match the echt-New York survivor who remarked, appreciatively, that what Garreau was doing was ""repackaging America""--to extend its life, ""like Coca Cola."") But it's primarily Garreau's map that makes the impression here; the rest is largely consciousness-raising, so everyone can get the idea.

Pub Date: May 28th, 1981
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin