LANDSCAPE IN SIGHT: Looking at America by John Brinckherhoff Jackson

LANDSCAPE IN SIGHT: Looking at America

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A large and varied sampler of essays by the late doyen of American cultural geography, who died in 1996. To judge by this well-edited assemblage, spanning half a century, Jackson (""Brink"" to friends and students) never saw a landscape he didn't like. He writes with the high excitement of discovery and boosterism. An intellectual who, trained in the classical arts of Europe, came late to appreciate the vernacular style of, say, a Vermont farmhouse or a New Mexico adobe, Jackson championed the cause of the native in all its manifestations. Thus we have his notes on ""helix sports,"" a lovely term for surfing, snowboarding, sailing, and the other ""sports of mobility""; his careful study of the transformation of the American backyard and garage from places of work to places of private recreation (and, now that garages are being remade into home offices, to places of work once again); his thoughtful remarks on the best uses of shared spaces, of ""learning to use them in a temporary way in order to overcome both the old-fashioned biological exclusiveness and the more modern emphasis on competition and control."" Jackson exhibits any number of well-considered prejudices, among them a liking for not-too-orderly urban centers; at one point, he proposes that the Ford Foundation give grants to students of city planning with the condition that ""for a year they would look at no picture books of Brave New Sweden and spend the time instead in the heart of some chaotic, unredeemed, ancient city."" Editor Horowitz, a historian at Smith College, recounts Jackson's career as a freelance scholar, reminding us that, as a self-taught geographer, he was always held in some mistrust by the academy. Highly recommended for geographers and students of the American scene.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0300080743
Page count: 416pp
Publisher: Yale Univ.