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The Geography of Nowhere: The Rise and Decline of America's Man-Made Landscape Hardcover – 1993


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 303 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671707744
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671707743
  • Product Dimensions: 1.9 x 15.9 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,025,276 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

Michiko Kakutani "The New York Times" Provocative and entertaining. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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First Sentence
There is a marvelous moment in the hit movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit? that sums up our present national predicament very nicely. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 8 April 1999
Format: Paperback
This book is a treat. It's one of those books that helps give you words for what you've always felt, but haven't articulated. Kunstler approaches the topic of why America is so GoshDarn ugly from many different perspectives. The parts of the book that focus on the histories of human habitats are not as thigh-slappinlgly funny as the parts in which he describes (with a dead-on accuracy that might make you cry) our own late-twentieth century American (ridiculous) landscape, but are compelling nonetheless for the sheer volume of information. Certain passages in the book are so elegantly written you will read them out loud to friends. Others are so funny you will laugh to yourself. Read this book with a pen to underline all the good stuff. It will no doubt change your perspective.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 11 Sept. 1998
Format: Paperback
Mr. Kunstler writes about the rise and fall (and glimmerings of a new rise) of our urban landscape. In beautiful prose he provides overviews of important American events (my husband loved his two page synopsis of World War II) to explain why our communities lack a sense of community, why houses,buildings and streets built before World War II are charming, and why those post-WWI are not and what some people are doing about it. Reading this book made a passionate New Urbanist out of me - I haven't felt this way about an issue since I picketed the draft board in the early 70's. Buy one copy for you and one for your friend who develops strip malls, 7-11's and Big Box stores. Up against the wall, bauhaus!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 9 Sept. 1998
Format: Paperback
As a general study into the well documented shortcomings of contemporary cities (suburbia/automotive society), Kunstler has done an excellent job of expressing his turmoil. His wit and poise in a literary setting are helpful in describing a plight that many have unknowingly settled for. As such, I would highly recommend the book for those of varied backgrounds who are academically unfamiliar with the past century (+) of urban design misfortunes. For those, like myself, who come from a design background, the text is more enjoyable for its wit than it is for its intellectual significance. This is not to say that I found the book to lack poise or effort, but rather scope and insight. In particular, I found the author's overbearing Neo-Traditionalist opinions to be misplaced and ignorant. As an example, I only need to point to his summary chapter which claims to examine recent trends in urban thoughts. Here, we see such examples as Duany and Plater-Zyberk's Seaside and Peter Calthorpe's Pedestrian Pockets. There is no mention, however, of more innovative, yet quite similar studies as those of Michael Sorkin or Steven Holl. My fear, I suppose, is that the nostalgic tone (that to his credit he doesn't hide) is almost irrelevant to contemporary discourse as it is posed. In fact, projects like Seaside are still continuing the 'progressive' mentality of development. Constructive urban planning needs a more holistic approach to the past (whether we value it or not) including the last 60 years. Suburbia, cars, television and fast food are here to stay. We need to focus our thoughts more towards evolving the existing fabric in all its manifestations.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 19 Mar. 1997
Format: Paperback
I am so glad I read this book. Kunstler has identified and explained why strip malls, cars, and vast paved areas can never compete with more traditional (i.e., high density) town design. Why are Paris and San Francisco, or even the traditional American small town, so much more appealing and human than where you live now? Because they are designed for people, based on well-understood, time-tested principles, instead of being designed for cars! This book explains things that have been nagging at us for years but have been hard to quantify or nail down.
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Format: Paperback
James Kunstler has the advantage of the skillful writer of novels, which enables the more brilliant and satirical passages found in his description of our automobile wasteland. There are no serious attempts to construct answers. The rhetorical approach - "I know what a viable community looks like when I see it"- mimics the day to day planning literature produced by many less talented communicators. Kuntsler's book is no less necessary, of course, but one wishes for the same dramatic effect when the planning or "zoning" process begins in the city or town hall. When will the professionals learn to sell their worthy product without indulging in the language of dictatorship and the mechanics of taking?
Kunstler does make one important point. The best of the small town or city neighborhoods are and were not planned. He demonstrates that we could expect viable communities if the automobile were eliminated from the scene. Attempts to regulate the automobile should in the long run survive serious legal challenge, perhaps more successfully than the notion that we can corporately deprive people of their land.
Kunstler is not an urban planner, of course, but those who are might learn to sell their ideas by avoiding legalism and coercion and talking the language of the poet or novelist. Attractive neighborhood streets with real people on them may be the result.
Tom Johnson
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