Ryan Flener
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Ryan Flener

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Critique: The Geography of Nowhere

At the fringe of our urban core lies a place known as “Everywhere.”

Here you can find anything from tacos, tanning beds, dentists, car dealerships, and apartments to insurance agents, Latino groceries, tattoo parlors, movie theaters, big box stores, and snowcone stands. Think Lemmon Avenue. Quite literally, everything you could ever need is right here in “Everywhere,” or as author James Howard Kunstler calls it, “Nowhere.” We are numb to these placeless phenomena, and while they appear simple and easy on the surface, there is a long, jaded, and complex history that has manicured such a landscape at since a time even before our nation’s independence.

Kunstler’s first non-fiction book—The Geography of Nowhere, published by the Free Press in 1993—is a study in the transformation from Main Street America to the concrete jungles which connect us to our urban centers. Known for his cynical and hilarious prose, Kunstler’s tone reeks of four-letter words and agitation, annihilating political leaders, corporate giants, “city planners,” and lazy citizens alike, all in the name of civic life. While there is something to be said for optimism in the design of good healthy cities, shocking and humbling books like this beg us to get up and do something, finally, for the good of our communal environment.