Kunstler, James Howard.  The city in mind: meditations on the urban condition.  Free Press, 2002 (c2001). 272p index  ISBN 0-684-84591-1, $25.00 . Reviewed in 2002sep CHOICE.


Kunstler is well known for his critical views on modern urban design, architecture, and conditions. His two previous books, The Geography of Nowhere (1993) and Home from Nowhere (1996), focused on the same theme. This book describes Kunstler's meditations on eight cities--Paris, Atlanta, Mexico City, Berlin, Las Vegas, Rome, Boston, and London. Relying on his journeys to some of these cities, the author uses a journalistic narrative that offers a series of observational essays rich in vivacious statements and dashing observations. The chapters represent essays in which Kunstler either gives a personal view of conditions in these cities or reflects on some aspects of their histories as they were built. While fascinating, eloquent, and highly readable, the book does not elevate beyond impressionist level and remains insufficient in analysis and inadequate in prognosis. Kunstler shows the inadequacies of urban development, but fails to recognize the structural and evolutionary nature of diverse urban conditions in the 20th century. Despite his thoughtful insights, the author will remain on the list of doomsayers whose obsessions with problems prevent them from finding realistic solutions. Much of his hyperbolic observations on the negative features of modern cities can be read as a critique of modernity. All levels and collections.  -- A. Mahdi, Ohio Wesleyan University