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Geography of Nowhere

 


Bruce Sterling writes:

    I never realized that James Howard Kunstler, prophet
    of suburban oil-peak doom, is a painter.  The guy is
    a pretty darn good painter, actually.

Here's a snippet from the interview and some info on his '93 book, Geography of Nowhere:

An Interview with James Howard Kunstler
Bring It On Home

by Mark Givens

James Howard Kunstler has written four books on Urban Design and Suburbia including the ground-breaking "Geography of Nowhere" in 1993. He has also written nine novels, the newest of which is entitled "Maggie Darling" and it's a doozy. He is a passionate author, a painter, an insightful social critic, and a sharp-witted observer. His latest book is called "The Long Emergency" and it talks about life after "peak oil" - or, as he describes it in this interview, "the cheap oil fiesta of the late 20th century". His "Clusterfuck Nation" is loaded with his commentary on our social condition and his "Eyesore of the Month" serves to remind us, with wit and sincerity, of the horrible things we're doing to our surroundings. But most of all, James Howard Kunstler gives voice to the uneasy feelings that bubble up within us, from the discomfort and confusion regarding our current urban environment to the uncertainty regarding our future post-cheap oil.

MungBeing: Your background is not in urban planning or architecture. Where does your passion for urban design come from?

James Howard Kunstler: Well, I've had to live in the shitty environments of daily life here in America for half a century, and I have strong feelings about it. The books I wrote represented to a large extent a personal struggle to understand why we could do such damage to our civilization.

MB: What attracted you to New Urbanism?

JHK: When I was writing "The Geography of Nowhere," I went up a lot of blind alleys. I talked to a lot of people who were, in fact, part of the problem -- for example, "star" architects like Bob Venturi and Denise Scott-Brown, who thought all the suburban crap was wonderful, playful, marvelous. When I finally encountered Andres Duany, I realized I had finally come to the right source. That very year, 1993, Andres along with his wife Lizz Plater-Zyberk, Doug Kelbaugh of the U of Washington, Peter Calthorpe, Stefanos Polyzoides, and a bunch of other dissatisfied architect / urbanists were organizing the official group that came to be called the Congress for the New Urbanism  -- the name was supplied by it's founding director, Peter Katz. These guys knew the score. I had found my way home.

[read on...]

The Geography of Nowhere:
The Rise and Decline of America's Man-Made Landscape (Hardcover)
by James Howard Kunstler
303 pages
Simon & Schuster (June 1993)
ISBN-10: 0671707744
ISBN-13: 978-0671707743

From Library Journal
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
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.