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The Geography of Nowhere
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Eighty percent of everything ever built in America has been built since the end of World War II. This tragic landscape of highway strips, parking lots, housing tracts, mega-malls, junked cities, and ravaged countryside is not simply an expression of our economic predicament, but in large part a cause. It is the everyday environment where most Americans live and work, and it represents a gathering calamity whose effects we have hardly begun to measure. In The Geography of Nowhere, James Howard Kunstler traces America's evolution from a nation of Main Streets and coherent communities to a land where everyplace is like noplace in particular, where the city is a dead zone and the countryside a wasteland of cars and blacktop. Now that the great suburban build-out is over, Kunstler argues, we are stuck with the consequences: a national living arrangement that destroys civic life while imposing enormous social costs and economic burdens. Kunstler explains how our present zoning laws impoverish the life of our communities, and how all our efforts to make automobiles happy have resulted in making human beings miserable. He shows how common building regulations have led to a crisis in affordable housing, and why street crime is directly related to our traditional disregard for the public realm. Kunstler takes the reader on a historical journey to understand how Americans came to view their landscape as a commodity for exploitation rather than a social resource. He explains why our towns and cities came to be wounded by the abstract dogmas of Modernism, and reveals the paradox of a people who yearn for places worthy of their affection, yet bend their efforts in an economic enterprise ofdestruction that degrades and defaces what they most deeply desire. Kunstler proposes sensible remedies for this American crisis of landscape and townscape: a return to sound principles of planning and the lost art of good place-making, an end to the tyranny of compulsive commuting, the un
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About the Author

James Howard Kunstler is the author of eight novels. He has worked as a newspaper reporter and an editor for Rolling Stone, and is a frequent contributor to The New York Times Sunday Magazine. He lives in upstate New York.

Reviews

In this spirited, irreverent critique, Kunstler spares none of the culprits that have conspired in the name of the American Dream to turn the U.S. landscape from a haven of the civic ideal into a nightmare of crass commercial production and consumption. Kunstler strips the bark off the utopian social engineering promoted by the machine-worshiping Modern movement of Gropius, Le Corbusier, and Frank Lloyd Wright and skewers the intellectual camps (e.g., Venturi) that have thrived on making academic glory of the consumer wasteland. With the fervor of an investigative reporter and in the vernacular of a tabloid journalist, Kunstler exposes the insidious ``car lobby'' and gives case studies of landscapes as diverse as Detroit, Atlantic City, and Seaside, Florida, to illustrate both the woes and hopeful notes. The ideas in this book are not new (Jane Jacobs and William H. Whyte Jr. were bemoaning the loss of civic life a quarter-century ago), but Kunstler gives their case an urgent, popular voice. An eminently relevant and important book; highly recommended.-- Thomas P.R. Nugent, New York

Michiko Kakutani"The New York Times"Provocative and entertaining. Bill McKibbenauthor of "The End of Nature"A Funny, Angry, Colossally Important Tour of Our Built Landscape, Our Human Ecology. "The New Yorker"A serious attempt to point out ways future builders can avoid the errors that have marred the American landscape. James G. Garrison"The Christian Science Monitor"Contributes to a discussion our society must hold if we are to shape our world as it continues to change at a dizzying pace. Robert Taylor"Boston Globe"A wonderfully entertaining useful and provocative account of the American environment by the auto, suburban developers, purblind zoning and corporate pirates. Robert Taylor "Boston Globe" A wonderfully entertaining useful and provocative account of the American environment by the auto, suburban developers, purblind zoning and corporate pirates. Bill McKibben author of "The End of Nature" A Funny, Angry, Colossally Important Tour of Our Built Landscape, Our Human Ecology. "The New Yorker" A serious attempt to point out ways future builders can avoid the errors that have marred the American landscape. James G. Garrison "The Christian Science Monitor" Contributes to a discussion our society must hold if we are to shape our world as it continues to change at a dizzying pace. Michiko Kakutani "The New York Times" Provocative and entertaining. Michiko Kakutani The New York Times Provocative and entertaining. James G. Garrison The Christian Science Monitor Contributes to a discussion our society must hold if we are to shape our world as it continues to change at a dizzying pace. The New Yorker A serious attempt to point out ways future builders can avoid the errors that have marred the American landscape. Bill McKibben author of The End of Nature A Funny, Angry, Colossally Important Tour of Our Built Landscape, Our Human Ecology. Robert Taylor Boston Globe A wonderfully entertaining useful and provocative account of the American environment by the auto, suburban developers, purblind zoning and corporate pirates. "The New Yorker"A serious attempt to point out ways future builders can avoid the errors that have marred the American landscape. James G. Garrison"The Christian Science Monitor" Contributes to a discussion our society must hold if we are to shape our world as it continues to change at a dizzying pace. Bill McKibbenauthor of "The End of Nature" A Funny, Angry, Colossally Important Tour of Our Built Landscape, Our Human Ecology. Michiko Kakutani"The New York Times" Provocative and entertaining. Robert Taylor"Boston Globe" A wonderfully entertaining useful and provocative account of the American environment by the auto, suburban developers, purblind zoning and corporate pirates.

In this inconsistent but provocative analysis, Kunstler ( Blood Solstice ), a novelist and journalist, mixes memoir, historical essay and reporting to condemn the car-dependent suburbanization of America. Kunstler, who writes ably, casts a very wide net: he finds the roots of American individualism in pre-colonial property ownership, decries the abstracting influence of modernism on city architecture and slams road-builder Robert Moses to support his contention that suburbia is a social environment without soul. He offers an intriguing history of the decline of Saratoga Springs, N.Y., his hometown, describes trips to failing Detroit and well-planned Portland, Ore., and dissects ``capitals of unreality'' like Disney World and Atlantic City. His worthy but sketchily described solutions--a sustainable economy, better neighborhood development and preservation of the countryside--could, however, each merit a book. (June)

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