In his Bleat yesterday, James Lileks had an epic architectural screed (those are three words you rarely hear in the same sentence, eh?) Beginning with the obit of Paolo Solari, a utopian architect (sadly, those are two words you hear far too often in the same sentence), before passing through Koyaanisqatsi-esque photos of maximum density Hong Kong apartment blocks, and finally settling into a long deconstruction of assorted historians’ and sociologists’ takes on the horrors of the American suburbs (also words you hear far too often in the same sentence), which concluded with a quote from a historian who wrote:
The collective verdict of these works reviewed here, in the end, leaves a gaping void in our understanding of postwar suburbia. One is left to ponder some basic questions. If the suburbs offered only social anguish and failure, why did Americans keep moving to them in ever-rising numbers? And more pointedly, why was the civil rights movement passionately fighting for access to suburban life? Why would African Americans be willing to risk vandalism, cross burnings and violence, for the opportunity to live in these social wastelands?
The obvious retort is “one is far too many,” and obviously, I concur. But how many cross burnings actually occurred in postwar suburbia — or is this simply a case of the work of the Professor to keep everyone in the country from moving south finally achieving fruition?
To be honest, we’d rather word didn’t get out. Stay away! In fact, I need to point this out: The South is a cultural desert, across which ride Klansmen on horseback and NASCAR fans in F350 Dually pickups. The cultural center is Wal-Mart, and the occasional tailgater before a lynching. Gunshows are disdained as the domain of pointy-headed intellectuals, because they also sell books. No, really, that’s all true — stay away! For the love of God, stay away!
UPDATE: Reader Phil Manhard emails: “I wish to add that we have fire ants, sinkholes, red tide, shark attacks, huge and regular brush fires, sandspurs, sunburn, hurricanes (though, unexpectedly!, none in the last couple of years). Yes, for the love of God, stay far away!”
And the chiggers. Beastly critters you want no part of. Stay in Massachusetts!