I'm one of those people…

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Our house in Garden City, about 1950

Placeholder for images from my next trip to Garden City

Placeholder for images from my next trip to Garden City

I'm one of those suburban people whom M. Christine Boyer accused of having only "wasteful and increasingly untenable dreams of single family homes, suburban isolation, and shopping malls," people who "hold no nostalgia for the old New York; these people prefer the suburbs, where they are surrounded by like-minded people and provided with the type of security they have known since childhood." (Boyer 1996, 151-53) I never felt isolated, but it's true, as Boyer suggests, that I don't hold too much nostalgia for her old New York. My urbanism lately has been in Chicago and Boston, Tokyo and Copenhagen, rather than the Manhattan I visited so often when young and lived in during my mid-twenties. Mostly these days I take my urbanism electronically, from a perch in what certainly looks like a suburban neighborhood, though it's not far from the center of a small city, and not far from the forest. A certain non-urban marginality seems valuable to me, and it is part of my defense of the suburbs that in an increasingly wired and virtualized world intellectual density can be achieved in other ways than in metropolitan centers.

Boyer indulges her own nostalgia for an elitist urbanism. She's quick to condemn the validity of others' experiences, and quick to generalize over a suburban scene that has become increasingly complex. It would be better if Boyer asked why people lived there, rather than condemning them as malformed people who should be wanting to live in Greenwich Village. Rybczynski's book City Life (Rybczynski 1995) offers far more useful ideas about their reasons and choices, and about why America offers so few other options.