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Book Home from Nowhere: Remaking Our Everyday World for the 21st Century by James Howard Kunstler (1998-03-26)


Home from Nowhere: Remaking Our Everyday World for the 21st Century by James Howard Kunstler (1998-03-26)

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    Available in PDF - DJVU Format | Home from Nowhere: Remaking Our Everyday World for the 21st Century by James Howard Kunstler (1998-03-26).pdf | Language: UNKNOWN
    James Howard Kunstler(Author)

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Review Text

  • By Shannon B. on September 30, 2002

    I read Kunstler's work on New Urbanism because it resonates with me. I used to drive an hour each way through work through mind-rending traffic, and I lived in subdivision where I could only leave by car, although most destinations were within 1 mile. I know the suburban sprawl of which Kunstler speaks, and it is refreshing to read a point of view that gels with my own experience. I see some issues in what he writes about, particularly in that many solutions are feasible only for the well off, but much of it strikes me as true. It may be polemic - although Home from Nowhere is packed with facts compared to Geography of Nowhere - but this polemic speaks to me at times.Home from Nowhere has several chapters with tangible plans for civic improvement, including both urban renewal and `greenfield' development. Concrete examples are given to demonstrate the principles of New Urbanism, as well as examples where New Urbanism failed to make an impact.Sections of the book seem like a rebuttal to responses to Geography of Nowhere. He mentions that he has traveled more and acquired an education in architectural principles, and his facts and research do make the book more worthwhile. If you have already read Geography of Nowhere, this book can fill in some of the gaps between the rhetoric.The last several chapters began to drag. First, the reader spends some time in Florida with a like-minded developer. Then there is the scathing chapter on local politics in upstate New York. Finally, an interesting chapter on organic farming seems tacked on without connection to the rest of the text. Most amusing of all was the autobiographical segment, where we learn the author was teased in his inner-city high school. One might draw the conclusion that the author's early experiences formed many of his opinions. While I am sure that was the intent of this chapter, I doubt he intended some of the conclusions I drew from his early life.I might mention some of the stereotyping that may offend readers of this book, and in fact, may lead me to write a letter to Mr. Kunstler. I will mention a few incidents. In one chapter on Memphis, Kunstler painstakingly reproduces the southerner's dialect, although he does this for no one else. In another chapter, he discusses muggings in NYC, and describes a typical mugger wearing hip-hop fashions. He apologizes in advance and then continues to discuss the problems of the inner-city poor. He mentions WASPs and all the evils they proliferate in passing. Finally, I was most shocked by his stereotyping of women. He writes: "An unmarried schoolteacher could not afford to live near the schoolchildren she taught, not to mention the cleaning lady." Apparently the author associates teaching and cleaning with women - their traditional roles. He should take more care in his use of gender pronouns.If you took the good parts of Geography of Nowhere and the good parts of this book (particularly the first few chapters, which were very fact-filled), you would have an excellent book on the principles of New Urbanism. The writing style can be very appealing. However, this book is not perfect.

  • By Thomas Rehermann on March 8, 2006

    If Ownership Society (G.W. Bush) instead of Great Society (L.B Johnson) sounds good to you, then US Suburbia is right for you."Home from Nowhere" by James Kunstler, however, predicts the demise of suburbia in the near future and lays out principles and detailed suggestions how future cities, towns, and settlements by humans living in today's borders of the USA should be outlined.The book is rich in details and enables both US citizens and immigrants such as me (from Germany) to understand what went so wrong with suburbia and its emphasis of providing a life in solitude. The ideas of "New Urbanism" are covered extensively and quite illustratively."Home from Nowhere" describes how cities and towns can be built or rebuilt that enable its residents to live in a social density traditionally associated with urban life (and in my country, Germany, the term "urban" had and has a positive connotation, socially mixed, culturally mixed, accessible, walking distance, public transportation).James Kunstler has offered his own view on why Suburbia is such a wrong way of life - and I recommend highly his previous book "Geography of Nowhere". "Nowhere" means "Suburbia". The title of this book "Home from Nowhere" hence means "Home from Suburbia", meaning home back in the urban life within a city - returning from the wrong life in the outer rings and returning to the city - once the US cities are walkable, enjoyable, livable again. How to make the cities livable again ? This is the topic of the book.Here are my own thoughts about US Suburbia as a German immigrant(who arrived here in 1998):In the US, social interaction in Suburbia is mostly limited to church and schools (in the case of parish schools, the two are practically identical). Church and school alone, however, do not substitute for "Community".In Germany, I was raised in a single-family house with a sizable lawn and access to a public bus (10min to downtwon) in a 250,000 city (Moenchengladbach, west of Cologne, 15 miles from the Dutch border). As a child, I effortlessly visited my friends, the school, the church, the theater, the cinema, etc. by bike, by bus and also by walking.Retail and affordable housing was mixed, residential villa areas (such as the one of my parents) were interspersed with rent complexes etc. Buses were used by teachers, academics, students, workers - and still are. Public transportation in Germany is truly used by the entire public.To understand better, why a focus on urban life is so important and why suburbia - home to half of Americans - is such a wasteful life (socially, resources-related, etc.) it is important to understand why so many Americans have chosen to live in barren, cloned, residential confinements: the unwillingness of US Public High Schools to differentiate by academic merit and merit alone.This is, however, in my view the one crucial difference to the US which might explain why the mixing is still there in Germany and why suburbia is so pervasive in the US: It is possibly for the very same reason why American cities were mixed until 1954.In Germany, schools are segmented by merit. After mandatory elementary school (Grade 1-4), each child in Germany is assessed on its academic potential at age 9 or 10 and then send to either "Main School" (to become a craftsman), "Real School" (to become most likely a very skilled worker) or to "Gymnasium" which is in essence a public (!) prep school with grades 5-13 whose graduates at age 19 then go to University.In conservative states (Bavaria, Baden-Wuerttemberg), 40-50% go to Main School, 20-25% to Real School and 20-30% to Gymnasium (before 1963 it was 5%).In left-wing states (notoriously Bremen and Berlin), 60% go to Gymnasium which has, of course, caused a collapse in quality. (German parents take great care to live outside the city-state of Bremen to take residence in either near-by Lower Saxony or Schleswig-Holstein - a rare example of suburbia behavior similar to the US).If you mix people in habitats, you need to separate students in schools based on their potential. Without that willingness, any attempt to resurrect urban life in the US will not take-off as an option endorsed wholeheartedly by Americans. German "Gymnasiums" are in essence "Advanced Placement Schools" where every subject is taught for every student for nine years on AP level. The beer kegging red-neck segment is relegated to the "Main School" (I know that in the US many children with affluent parents are beer-kegging as well - just another sign of the social deterioration so prevalent in suburbia). As a matter of fact, merit segmentation often reflects social segmentation and much has been written in Germany to rectify this.In German gymnasiums, the emphasis on academics and much less emphasis on school team sports is resulting in free space for geeks and nerds. "Jocks" do not exist. As a result, every boy and girl that likes school flourishes already in school without having to wait for the Promised Land of College.As the history of America shows: If you mix public schools - after 1954 - adults refuse to mix any longer and settle in socially homogeneous habitats. At school, their children will then encounter neanderthals and primates, but how fortunate that their parents are in the same income percentile!It is this move to social homogeneousness that gives Suburbia its fake ace: it is so easy to erect all those segregated zoning cages - the rich - the affluent - the true middle class - the delusional middle class - the upper trailer trash (who also are made believe they are middle class) - the zoning area you never entered. Teachers do not segment by academic potential: not a problem - then the parents do their job (but parents usually fail miserably at mixing their children socially - but again, this is what cities and towns are for).Cities and towns, in turn, are very bad at segregating people (and after all: why should they do it ?) Yes, there are neighborhoods that tilt one way or the other, but usually they are too small to support a whole school: Therefore, students from different social backgrounds mix and therefore, teachers must do the separating by assessment based on merit.If you allow public schools being strictly segmented by merit, adults are ready to stay and accept and invite different people around them. Parents must be reassured that social mixing - in cities - does not lead to indiscriminate student mixing of bright and less bright students in the same school buildings.As the German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe once said: "Differentiation means progress".US public high schools do not differentiate by merit (enough). As a result, parents differentiate by income. Welcome to suburbia.Yes, I am aware that in Germany the terms "selection" or segmentation are contaminated for a very valid reason. In your country, the term "segregation" is. Still, I offer this line of thought to you here, since I think it really matters and it helps both bright and not so bright students better to reach their potential when taught separately.I remember how stunned I was during the first two years here (1998-2000). I could not believe the miles and miles of singe-family houses with no boardwalks, no cinema, no theater, no concert hall, no auditorium, no restaurant, no retail. Quiet confinements with adults sitting in front of flickering tv screens or computer screens (with or without children). Does this sound like a fulfilled life to you ?It can be done better - in Germany, but also in this country which has a very rich tradition of mid-size and small-size towns that have resolved the task of building a humanly scaled habitat very well.Back to the author of the book to review: James Kunstler offers his ideas and ideas from active architects of how compelling new ideas - and resurrecting old ones - can be implemented in a very detailed way. Make zoning your ally. Read: "Geography of Nowhere" as well. - The ICE (formerly INS) should give this book as a free hand-out to any immigrant arriving in the US and considering moving to Suburbia.I also recommend "The Long Emergency" in which Kunstler spells out the predicted events when cheap oil will cease to exist. The first casualty will be US Suburbia - and rightfully so in his view. "The Long Emergency" is laudable for its uncompromising bluntness (see such subtitles as "sunset for the sunbelt"). "Home from Nowhere" is valuable for its constructive advise how humans in the US can live instead.There is a Society beyond the mere Ownership Society. We all can do better.

  • By Jessica on August 22, 2016


  • By Guest on March 1, 2016

    The book arrived in near-perfect condition and I was very pleased

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