The City In Mind: Book Report

As referenced in my last post, I thought some of the little book reports I indexed on cards a few years ago might make for an interesting read before I recycle the paper.

This post covers The City in Mind, written by James Kunstler. The index card was dated 9/24/04.

An extension of Kunstler’s The Geography of Nowhere in that the book looks at selected cities around the world that are just as meaningless as the suburban America he explored in his earlier work. Boston shines as a livable city poised to succeed in the 21st Century–when he claims so many others will fail. Mexico City and its Aztec past doesn’t connect well with other essays in the book. Paris and Berlin reviewed…Paris great, Berlin a lost opportunity.

American tendencies re: city and nature are linked to our Anglican history–the English upperclass as opposed to the French, despised trade and merchants so they wouldn’t live with them in mixed use housing. That was allowed to continue in America and became enfranchised through the easy availability of oil post WWII and the suburbs it enabled.

The split between city and nature, urban and rural, was institutionalized by movements such as those of Frederick Law Olmsted whose parks (Central Park being the most well known) set up a “here, there” geography whereby an urban area was not seen as capable of integrating nature, and nature was not seen as having a proper sense of belonging in an urban context.