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This has set me to thinking about city writing more generally, and the way in which some of the vexations of the genre present certain recurring temptations that many writers have failed to resist.
Here follow, for starters, some gems from Classic Essays on the Culture of Cities, edited by Richard Sennett (Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1969; Sennett was only in his mid-twenties when the book appeared). Max Weber (“The Nature of the City”): “Neither the ‘city,’ in the economic sense, nor the garrison, the inhabitants of which are accoutred with special political-administrative structures, necessarily constitute a ‘community.’ An urban ‘community,’ in the full meaning of the word, appears as a general phenomenon only in the Occident.” Oh, dear. Robert Park (“The City: Suggestions for the Investigation of Human Behavior in the Urban Environment”; savor that subtitle for a moment): “The old adage which describes the city as the natural environment of the free man still holds so far as the individual man finds in the chances, the diversity of interests and tasks, and in the vast un-conscious cooperation of city life the opportunity to choose his own vocation and develop his peculiar individual talents.” Louis Wirth (“Human Ecology”): “The studies showing significant differences in such phenomena as delinquency and mental disorders between different areas of the city are of the utmost importance for the advance of scientific knowledge.” But of course!
August - Couple - Pieces - Anniversary - Jean
In August 2001, I wrote a couple of pieces marking the fortieth anniversary of Jean Gottmann’s book Megalopolis: The Urbanized Northeastern Seaboard of the United States. Gottmann was a French geographer who lived in the U.S. for some years, and his book generated a great deal of attention; its title was, for a while, a concept to conjure with. Nowadays, as I wrote in 2001,
the word is not forgotten, but it...
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