THE SUBURBAN MYTH by Scott Donaldson


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A polemical review of the scholarly and popular literature on Suburbia--especially the critiques of the '50's, according to the author a high point of anti-suburban sentiment. The book is readable but rather ill-organized; and it too often settles for debating points rather than sustained pursuit of key issues like shoddy building. Donaldson (a professor and ex-journalist) does make a good case for his view that the suburbs aren't bad at all, and when they are it's a function of larger social derangements. . . the ""conformity"" charge illustrates this point. He shows up critics' damned-if-you-do-or-don't excesses, e.g. on child-rearing, but sometimes overrates these inconsistencies, e.g. between loneliness and lack of privacy. For his attacks on anti-suburbanites like Glazer and Reisman, he cites everyone from Emerson and Cassirer to Phyllis McGinley, with great good humor and occasional wit. The book sketches the history of suburban development, lampoons American rural-idyll myths, and keeps reminding us that people like the suburbs--which admittedly ""have lost many of the qualities that made them desirable."" Donaldson discusses lifestyles, putters with distinctions in suburbanites' social classes, then examines the divergent data and conclusion in the well-known Seeley and Whyte studies. The chapters on suburban fiction add a pleasant dimension. A safe compromise for all levels of brows.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1969
ISBN: 0595211011
Publisher: Columbia University Press