Crossing the Expendable Landscape by Bettina Drew

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Bettina Drew provides a deeply personal perspective on a variety of built environments and reveals some insight about urbanism. She visits Stamford, Connecticut; Hilton Head, North Carolina; Celebration, Florida; Las Vegas; Dallas; and Branson, Missouri.

A major theme of her work comes out in her writing about Western US developments: "It's all about passing the cost on to someone else; the idea, over and over, is to minimize one's responsibility to the community" (p. 169). Her concise account of the de-urbanization of Stamford, Connecticut illustrates this. Stamford changed from a mix of retail stores, residences, and offices to a monoculture of massive office blocks and a soulless pedestrian environment.

Another related theme is the shirking of government responsibility for community. Government policies in savings and loans lending led to massive overbuilding in Dallas on shaky economic ground, resulting in billions of dollars of liability for taxpayers and enormous and often unfinished or empty developments.

Drew did not visit any place like East Saint Louis or Detroit to get the perspective of the people in those locations and their struggles. She describes a "tiny" homeless man in her Manhattan neighborhood by his first name, as if he were a pet she kept. She also looks down upon "people neither respected nor thought of by those on the coasts" (p. 77) "who live in a world that is deeply provincial and culturally starved" (p. 69) in her bitter stereotype of people in Branson. These prejudices perhaps point up the book's unintended strength: the landscapes shared by people not like herself seem to raise her ire the most--suggesting, perhaps, how landscape can be closely associated to one's sense of identity. She devalues places alien to her peer/social context.

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