Saturday, October 21, 2006

Reader's Diary #172- Jane Jacobs: Dark Age Ahead (FINISHED!)

This book will mark my first foray into a real bookclub (not the internet version). I'm a little nervous as to how it will go.

I don't have things underlined. I don't have pages marked or dog-eared. And with the exception of the three blog posts, I haven't made a whole lot of notes. I hope they're forgiving of the newbie. Hey, at least I read it.

I also hope there aren't many fans of the book amongst them. That could be a little uncomfortable. As you may have gathered, I'm not a fan.

Overall, I found the book terribly uninspiring. Jacobs focused almost all of her insight on cities and cars. Occasionally she broke away from such topics (especially with the "Credentialing Versus Educating" chapter, which was pretty good) but I found it hard to care, as callous as that may sound. I guess a lot of the problem might have been my expectations going into it. I was hoping to gather some knowledge or a new perspective on the dying cultures of minority groups such as the Inuit or Newfoundlanders, but she offered very little in the way of such peoples.

While she claimed in the opening chapter that it is "both a gloomy and hopeful" book, she seemed to have skimped on the "hopeful". It's not an uncommon complaint of her writing, as far as I've discovered, and it's bothersome. She took on such an air of superiority about the mistakes of the past yet her solutions seemed wishy-washy at best. Asides from preaching that we should learn from the past (which in itself is not a novel idea), she states that we, as a society, need to be self aware. Without much elaboration on her part, it seemed like a pretty hollow solution as far as I'm concerned. Jacobs, at least in this particular book, seemed to be all hindsight, and very little foresight.


Barbara Bruederlin said...

I guess that I've only been aware of Jane Jacobs as someone whose expertise lay in the analysis of the city, so I am not surprised that she didn't get into cultures who traditionally live outside of urban settings. Still though, if you were expecting a broader analysis of cultures, that would be disappointing.

Go to your book club meeting and be the dissenting voice!

John Mutford said...

I'll go and speak my mind, but in moderation. I don't want to be that "cranky guy we only invited once".

John Mutford said...

Well, the book club is over now. It was better than I expected- my fears of offending someone were unfounded. Nobody seemed to care greatly for the book. Most of the points I made here were brought up. We got sidetracked quite a bit but that's the nature of the book, I think. Plus, I found the conversations much more thought-provoking than the book itself (which was nice).

Now, if those people who just wanted to prove how smart they are would leave, I'd be psyched about the next meeting. Oh well, at least most people didn't come across that way.