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The Death and Life of Main Street: Small Towns in American Memory, Space, and Community by [Orvell, Miles]
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Length: 316 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
Page Flip: Enabled

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Editorial Reviews


Highly recommended. Upper-level undergraduates and above.--Choice

Leaves no doubt that the New Urbanism owes a debt to small-town America.--AAG Review of Books

Thought-provoking.--Publishers Weekly

Stimulating and productive. . . . A striking example of how to do cultural history.--H-Memory

An eye-opening exploration of the mythology and culturally laden concepts behind small towns and Main Street.--The Annals of Iowa

An admirable job of mapping the symbolic meanings of small-town America. . . . Lucid and engaging.--Journal of Historical Geography

This book is rich with literary and visual examples.--Journal of American History

An invigorating kaleidoscopic tour as different elements pop into prominence in different chapters. . . . A fascinating exploration of the transformation of the small town in the national imagination from slough of black-slapping mediocrity to embodiment of democratic virtue.--Register of the Kentucky Historical Society

A creative, cohesive approach. . . . Orvell's analysis is astute and readable. . . . A compelling and useful text.--North Carolina Historical Review

An engaging study of the development of Americans' sense of community in the twentieth and early twenty-first century. . . . A worthwhile read for those interested in the intersection of American culture with urban and suburban history.--Australasian Journal of American Studies


Orvell brilliantly reveals the complex national governing myth (and the realities) of Main Street America. This book offers a fresh look at Main Street, highlighting its racial, class- and gender-based faultlines and featuring the voices that have vied to sustain or subvert it--literary, historical, urbanist, corporate. A splendid achievement.--Cecelia Tichi, Vanderbilt University

Miles Orvell examines the American Main Street as both history and ideology, as both a visual convention and a controversial symbol, as the lost space of the past and a source of inspiration for new urban experiments. Throughout, this book is a tour de force of interdisciplinary research and an exemplary work in American Studies.--Professor David E. Nye, author of American Technological Sublime

Bold and provocative. Orvell shows how Main Street as an ideology has been suffused with the values of consumerism, thus undercutting the personal bonds originally associated with the term.--Howard Gillette Jr., Rutgers University-Camden

In this clear-eyed and lively history of one of the most enduring icons of American life, Miles Orvell shows how Main Street as a concept has simultaneously attracted and repelled Americans, offering them both an imaginary homeland and a spiritual wasteland. While some have yearned to "get back" to the supposed innocence and small-town virtues of Main Street,others have decried its suffocating conformity. Orvell brilliantly reconsiders such figures as Walt Whitman, Walt Disney, Henry Ford, Sinclair Lewis, Frank Capra, Norman Rockwell, Robert and Helen Lynd, and Jane Jacobs, whose famous disquisition on the American metropolis Orvell alludes to in his title. This book shows why exiles on Main Street, along with more contented inhabitants, can never let it go.--David M. Lubin, Wake Forest University

Product details

  • File Size: 9253 KB
  • Print Length: 316 pages
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press (October 1, 2012)
  • Publication Date: October 1, 2012
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B009LPY54M
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Screen Reader: Supported
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,759,154 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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on February 27, 2015
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