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The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition Hardcover – Bargain Price, December 31, 2001


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Hardcover, Bargain Price, December 31, 2001
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; 1ST edition (December 31, 2001)
  • ISBN-10: 0684845911
  • ASIN: B0000C2W6A
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.2 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,550,650 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Author and urban gadfly Kunstler (Home from Nowhere; Geography of Nowhere) has graduated from the nowheresville of previous titles to a punchy new study of eight cities in as many chapters: Paris, Atlanta, Mexico City, Berlin, Las Vegas, Rome, Boston, and London. Outspoken and straining for an aphoristic style, Kunstler lacks the overt humanistic impulses of urban studies writers like Jane Jacobs or Lewis Mumford. Instead, he favors snappy observations such as "If Las Vegas truly is our city of the future, then we might as well all cut our throats tomorrow." Kunstler tosses off insults to icons like the distinguished architect I.M. Pei: "Few architects have done as much wholesome damage to any city as the partners I.M. Pei and Harry Cobb did in Boston." He also dips into the unconsciously funny during a stroll through London's Hampstead Heath in which he turns out to be possibly the only urban scholar unaware of its gay cruising grounds, or what Kunstler calls "this somewhat sordid destination." While there are more serious reflections here, the book's generally ill temper is most likely to please readers who want a Don Ricklesian poke-and-prod version of urban affairs. And one is also left wondering what the "urban condition" might be in more easterly world cities.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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

From Library Journal

Cities are good. Suburbs are bad. Paris is good. Las Vegas is bad. Boston? Stay tuned. Kunstler, a vociferous, highly opinionated critic of the urban landscape, takes an uncompromisingly hard look at how eight cities (Paris, Atlanta, Mexico City, Berlin, Las Vegas, Rome, Boston, and London), either through inspired ideas or chaotic greed, became sublime expressions of the human spirit or of gigantic monstrosities and perversion. The subtitle is appropriate, for the author makes little attempt to be systematic or comprehensive in his discussions. Although he never raises the analysis above the level of a popular magazine article, his writing is admittedly bold and thought-provoking throughout. One can learn a great deal about Louis Napoleon's renovation of Paris, Hitler's and Albert Speer's megalomaniac architectural plans for Berlin, Bugsy Segal's "setting the tone" for Las Vegas, and more. The real charm of the book, however, is not Kunstler's rambles through each city's historical and geographical spaces but his plea for a more human-focused urban landscape. For public libraries. Glenn Masuchika, Rockwell Collins Information Ctr., Cedar Rapids, IA
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

James Howard Kunstler is probably best known as the author of "The Long Emergency" (The Atlantic Monthly Press 2005), and "The Geography of Nowhere" (Simon and Schuster, 1993). Two other non-fiction titles in that series are "Home From Nowhere" (Simon and Schuster, 1996), and "The City in Mind" (Simon and Schuster, 2002). He's also the author of many novels, including his tale of the post-oil American future, "World Made By Hand" (The Atlantic Monthly press, 2008). The sequel will be published in the fall of 2010. His shorter work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Atlantic Monthly, Metropolis, Rolling Stone, Playboy, and many other periodicals.

James Howard Kunstler was born in New York City in 1948. He attended New York's High School of Music and art and SUNY Brockport (BA, Theater, 1971). He was a reporter for the Boston Phoenix, the Albany Knickerbocker News, and later an editor with Rolling Stone Magazine. In 1975 he dropped out of corporate journalism to write books, and settled in Saratoga Spring, New York, where he has lived ever since.

Kunstler's popular blog, Clusterf**k Nation, is published every Monday morning at www.kunstler.com and his weekly podcast, The KunstlerCast, is refreshed every Thursday.

Kunstler is also a serious professional painter. His work may be seen at www.kunstler.com

Customer Reviews

These laugh-out-loud sections I have taken to reading to my family at their request.
Goodsalt
His anger may keep him vigilant on the subject of suburban sprawl, but it often times detracts from the reader empathizing with the position he puts forward.
Amazon Customer
Although his previous two books were quite enjoyable, Kunstler's style has become too distracting to read.
Adam Sapp

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Shannon B Davis VINE VOICE on May 21, 2003
Format: Hardcover
A City in Mind is a quick read. Each chapter presents a city from Kunstler's unique point of view. He often spends a great deal of time on the history of the city - sometimes too much time - but the reader learns about why the city developed as it did. Some chapters are brilliant. The history of post-revolution Paris is quite fascinating, especially when compared to London. Rome, as one of the first major Western cities, is thankfully not left out. And as a Boston resident, I greatly enjoyed the chapter on Boston, particularly as he named Boston as the city most likely to thrive in the coming century.
Kunstler rips into Las Vegas like no other city before. I enjoy his sarcastic diatribes, but I know some people who are annoyed by them. After reading about Las Vegas, I can honestly say I'm glad that I've never been there. On the other hand, I think I could have attempted to have a bit more fun than JHK had I spent some time there.
This is not the best of Kunstler's books, but as a die-hard Kunstler fan, I had to read it. I would recommend the would-be reader to start with Geography of Nowhere or Home from Nowhere. Both lay the groundwork for understanding where A City In Mind is coming from. Kunstler writes a kind of sarcastic, comedic commentary on the state of our world when he isn't praising new urbanism - my favorite urban movement.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By M. Chackerian on January 7, 2003
Format: Paperback
I feel sorry for all those people here that give this book a poor review. It appears that it didn't match their expectations, or they just didn't "get it". I had never even heard of this author before, let alone read any of his other works, so I couldn't be disappointed.
This book is not trying to be comprehensive in its critique of cities. In fact, some of the chapters on cities don't necessarily have much to do with the cities themselves. Instead the author rambles on delightfully with a tapestry of anecdotes, sometimes about people, sometimes about places, set in the past, the present, and even the future. It might all seem a little bit disconnected unless you catch on to the underlying themes, his very strong opinions regarding what makes cities livable and unlivable places. He cares a lot--he is not just insulting I.M. Pei and others for the sake of getting attention.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Goodsalt on January 9, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Any review of a James Howard Kunstler book must nearly by necessity begin with a tip of the hat to his "Nowhere" books, to acknowledge their quality, to (perhaps) lend an air of authority to the reviewer, but most of all to place in context his current offering. The City in Mind enlarges and deepens the concern he voiced in those previous books for the human condition, as it is affected by our man-made environment, specifically living arrangements such as cities and, even more particularly in those prior works - suburbs. While continuing to skewer our domestic "National Automobile Slum" which made his "Nowhere" books famous (look out Atlanta), Mr. Kunstler presents a broad and rich discussion of eight cities both domestic and foreign, in chapters devoted to, and named after, each city in question.
Kunstler describes the historical evolution of each metropolis as it developed through the geography, culture, personalities, and psychology particular to it. In so doing he provides an explanation for the current condition of each, and attempts a prognosis. In earlier days, Kunstler wrote novels (Embarrassment of Riches, etc.), so he knows how to tell a story. And the story of each of these cities is vivid - so vivid in fact that Kunstler could easily bring his ample literary skills to bear on writing history and do it in a way that would enthrall people who otherwise find it lifeless. For example, the first chapter on Paris describes the massive renovation undertaken by Louis Napoleon and his able administrator Haussmann.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By "svicious22" on February 3, 2002
Format: Hardcover
The author's essays are, by turns, fascinating, meandering and, occasionally, mere rants of a harsh and judgmental personality. There is very little consistency in his approach to discussing each of the chosen cities, the best (Mexico City) combine historical perspective and a current snapshot in a thoroughly entertaining and informative way. The worst (Rome)lacked any sort of meaningful current perspective and left me disappointed and wishing for an altogether different discourse on what is, for me anyway, a city as intriguing in the here and now as in ancient times.
Kunstler clearly despises American common (auto-dominated/suburban) culture (as anyone who has read his Geography of Nowhere knows) and saves his harshest, most personal attacks for American targets. He reports on the sordid state of Mexico City with a degree of detachment, but attacks the comparative paradises of Atlanta and Las Vegas in a highly personalized manner that at times borders on the bizarre. Some of his musings about the role of the auto in Atlanta's culture are just plain silly, and his rantings about the Las Vegas strip are dangerously close to those of a myopic, intolerant crank who can appreciate no other perspective than his own. Kunstler is relentlessly condescending to the American public, not without some reason, certainly, but it grows tiresome.
In short, I found this book well worth the read but I have to wonder if this is more a function of its topic than the author's treatment thereof.
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