THE CITY AFTER THE AUTOMOBILE

Some contemporary urban realities are confronted head-on here, while others are ignored, making it difficult to decide whether Safdie's ideas are visionary or merely silly. Much of this book is an erudite survey of familiar ground. The automobile has undoubtedly reshaped urban topography, with the flight to suburbia producing the need for more roads, parking, and cars. Accompanied by a diminished concern for public spaces, this has turned architects, once the planners of communities, into designers of individual sites. Habitat '67 creator Safdie (Architecture/Harvard) is not blinded by nostalgia for bygone days when parks and plazas were the shared center of city life, however. He recognizes that Americans are devoted to the convenience and independence of travel by automobile, and he envisions a transportation system that will retain these qualities while also revitalizing urban areas. Within his imagined city, ``conveyors''- -essentially elevators that move horizontally—will provide easy movement between buildings. Regional transportation will be based on ``U-cars''—publicly owned carlike vehicles—that can be picked up and dropped off as needed at depots located next to conveyor stops and rail stations. (High-speed trains will link cities.) Pedestrian walkways and open spaces in the core of the city will be protected from the elements by gigantic, retractable glass roofs, optimizing conditions for enjoying public life. While creating an urban utopia without completely removing automobiles, however, Safdie is amazingly obtuse about the political and economic values that he recognizes are at the heart of Americans' love for cars. A culture that worships private car ownership is not fertile ground for public spaces involving massive government expenditure and administration, and to imagine that the affluent will be willing to pay the necessary taxes is more fanciful than conveyors or U-cars. Architects should be dreamers, but we need more from them than castles in the air. (illustrations, not seen)

Pub Date: June 4, 1997

ISBN: 0-465-09836-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1997

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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