FROM "The Geography of Nowhere: The Rise and Decline of...

Salmagundi

August 12, 1994

FROM "The Geography of Nowhere: The Rise and Decline of America's Man-Made Landscape," by James Howard Kunstler, recently reissued in paperback by Touchstone books:

"The sparse traffic on the pre-automobile road was almost entirely local. Vehicles moved along at a pace that posed no particular hazard to pedestrians. The road connected each house to the larger world by discrete increments: first to the neighboring houses, then to the nearest town, and from there by a wholly different type of road, rail or river, to the great city.

"When travel was slow and houses were scattered, with no trivial structures in between, each house stood as a celebration of effort and achievement in the life of its owner. The approach to a house along the road was gradual and, as in the case with focal points in city streets, getting to it induced a feeling of having really arrived somewhere. To leave home even for a short journey was a matter of import, and homecomings were among the momentous events of life. . .

"The road is now like television, violent and tawdry. The landscape it runs through is littered with cartoon buildings and commercial messages. We whiz by them at 55 miles an hour and forget them, because one convenience store looks like the next. They do not celebrate anything beyond their mechanistic ability to sell merchandise. We don't want to remember them. We did not savor the approach and we were not rewarded upon reaching the destination, and it will be the same next time, and every time. There is little sense of having arrived anywhere. because everyplace looks like noplace in particular."

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