Tuesday, July 12, 2011

on the reading list

About a week ago I read a short essay in the New Yorker titled, "Get Out of Town; has the celebration of cities gone too far?," by Nicholas Lemann. Lemann essentially makes the argument that while cities may certainly be forever praised, the suburban or out-of-city life won't simply disappear. There are qualities of the suburban and town-scale form and living that recall the age old American dream - privacy, a lawn, a peaceful place to raise a family, a small town and close knit community. Many of us, myself included, make the argument that the American dream is irrelevant in the 21st century and instead we will find fulfillment without green lawns, acres of private space and a dominant reliance on the car.

However, Lemann makes a point that many of us in younger generations don't think about when arguing for a revision of the American dream: where will we eventually want to raise a family? Many of us were born and raised in suburbs, played in ultra-wide streets and cul-de-sacs or perceive the notion of community based on our evolution in a suburban setting. We then grow fed up with the suburb and migrate to the city. However, at what point - if there is one for certain individuals - will those who left the suburbs eventually return?

Cities are cool. No doubt about it. They provide unique experiences at every turn of the corner, are home to a creative class, offer proximity for the development of unpredicted friendships, relationships and coversations and are simply fun to be in.

After reading Lemann's essay I have to admit that my admiration of the city and it's idiosyncrasies hasn't faded, though I have significantly re-thought my understanding of what suburban really means. Working on developing an opinion means coming to know all angles of an issue - this certainly includes a multi-generational analysis, which is quite hard to imagine unless you read or listen to the opinions of those from different generations.

Additional reading:

Elijah Anderson, "The Cosmopolitan Canopy: Race and Civility in Everyday Life"

Richard Florida, "The Rise of the Creative Class" and "The Great Reset"

Edward Glaser, "Triumph of the City"

John D. Kasarda/Greg Lindsay, "Aerotropolis"

Doug Saunders, "Arrival City"

James Russel, "The Agile City"

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