Pastoral Cities: 08/06/17
Pastoral Cities by James L. Machor is a collection of essays on the cultural back and forth between the urban and the rural in American history. In Europe, the city was a means to socialize people; in America, it was a means of taming and perfecting the landscape.
Machor's thesis is that historians have systematically ignored the "integration of the rural and urban" in the American story. Further more our understanding of American history will remain "truncated" and "incomplete" until the rural vs urban story is fully studied.
So this book is a compilation of essays on repeated attempts by American planners to built urban utopias, walled gardens of Eden. As each attempt failed for one reason or another (sprawl, economic problems, crime, etc), the experiments push west. And for each time this happens, the myth of the farmer and the mountain man as the progenitor of the American way, grows.
As a background for city planning within the United States, the book is fine. For the purpose of understanding the traveling narrative between the two extremes of American life &mdash the crowded city and the sparsely populated rural areas, it falls short. In fact it does what it complains about in the introduction: it stays within the bounds of the cities it discusses.
My notes from the book are on Tumblr.