A welcome manifesto for rethought urban spaces and their outliers, bringing social justice into the discussion.



A study of zoning as an instrument of inequality—and deliberately so.

Former New York City planning official Gray examines the “arbitrary lines” that mark zoning maps. In most of the country’s major cities, he notes, the least desired sort of construction is apartment buildings, since these typically serve poorer communities, often made up of immigrants or ethnic minorities. Because deed covenants are no longer politically acceptable, zoning authorities hide behind “a dizzying array of confusing and pseudoscientific rules” that touch on such things as setbacks, floor area ratios, room size, and the like. So it has always been: Gray observes that the first discernible zoning laws were meant to impede Eastern European Jews from settling along New York’s Fifth Avenue. Modern zoning laws block not just the movements of people of color and of low income; they also stunt growth and innovation. Exclusionary rules make cities, which should be engines of innovation, unaffordable while immiserating the people who live there. Add to that the extraordinary requirements of many zoning laws about housing density and the location of shopping centers, and modern zoning condemns suburbanites to life in their cars. Examining the case of the zoning-free city of Houston, Gray convincingly presses the argument for rethinking and largely abandoning zoning laws as such, writing that these laws usually have only to do with “uses and densities on private land—nothing more, nothing less,” and are largely proscriptive and not prescriptive. Instead, the author urges that precedence be given to planning, which is a different thing entirely, and a planning system that allows for the interlayering of different kinds of housing and other properties that will help make housing more affordable and available and more ecologically sustainable—“green downtown apartments,” say, as opposed to “brown detached homes out on the edge of town.”

A welcome manifesto for rethought urban spaces and their outliers, bringing social justice into the discussion.

Pub Date: June 21, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-642-83254-9

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Island Press

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.


Sedaris remains stubbornly irreverent even in the face of pandemic lockdowns and social upheaval.

In his previous collection of original essays, Calypso (2018), the author was unusually downbeat, fixated on aging and the deaths of his mother and sister. There’s bad news in this book, too—most notably, the death of his problematic and seemingly indestructible father at 96—but Sedaris generally carries himself more lightly. On a trip to a gun range, he’s puzzled by boxer shorts with a holster feature, which he wishes were called “gunderpants.” He plays along with nursing-home staffers who, hearing a funnyman named David is on the premises, think he’s Dave Chappelle. He’s bemused by his sister Amy’s landing a new apartment to escape her territorial pet rabbit. On tour, he collects sheaves of off-color jokes and tales of sexual self-gratification gone wrong. His relationship with his partner, Hugh, remains contentious, but it’s mellowing. (“After thirty years, sleeping is the new having sex.”) Even more serious stuff rolls off him. Of Covid-19, he writes that “more than eight hundred thousand people have died to date, and I didn’t get to choose a one of them.” The author’s support of Black Lives Matter is tempered by his interest in the earnest conscientiousness of organizers ensuring everyone is fed and hydrated. (He refers to one such person as a “snacktivist.”) Such impolitic material, though, puts serious essays in sharper, more powerful relief. He recalls fending off the flirtations of a 12-year-old boy in France, frustrated by the language barrier and other factors that kept him from supporting a young gay man. His father’s death unlocks a crushing piece about dad’s inappropriate, sexualizing treatment of his children. For years—chronicled in many books—Sedaris labored to elude his father’s criticism. Even in death, though, it proves hard to escape or laugh off.

A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-39245-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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A scattershot exercise in preaching to the choir.


A British journalist fulminates against Black Lives Matter, critical race theory, and other threats to White privilege.

“There is an assault going on against everything to do with the Western world—its past, present, and future.” So writes Spectator associate editor Murray, whose previous books have sounded warnings against the presumed dangers of Islam and of non-Western immigration to the West. As the author argues, Westerners are supposed to take in refugees from Africa, Asia, and Latin America while being “expected to abolish themselves.” Murray soon arrives at a crux: “Historically the citizens of Europe and their offspring societies in the Americas and Australasia have been white,” he writes, while the present is bringing all sorts of people who aren’t White into the social contract. The author also takes on the well-worn subject of campus “wokeness,” a topic of considerable discussion by professors who question whether things have gone a bit too far; indeed, the campus is the locus for much of the anti-Western sentiment that Murray condemns. The author’s arguments against reparations for past damages inflicted by institutionalized slavery are particularly glib. “It comes down to people who look like the people to whom a wrong was done in history receiving money from people who look like the people who may have done the wrong,” he writes. “It is hard to imagine anything more likely to rip apart a society than attempting a wealth transfer based on this principle.” Murray does attempt to negotiate some divides reasonably, arguing against “exclusionary lines” and for Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s call for a more vigorous and welcoming civil culture. Too often, however, the author falters, as when he derides Gen. Mark Milley for saying, “I want to understand white rage. And I’m white”—perhaps forgetting the climacteric White rage that Milley monitored on January 6, 2021.

A scattershot exercise in preaching to the choir.

Pub Date: April 26, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-316202-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Broadside Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2022

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