Book Reviews

The CLUI has been expanding the range of titles we offer in our bookshop, adjacent to the gallery space in our Los Angeles location. We now feature books published through The Center for American Places, a nonprofit organization based out of Harrisonburg Virginia, that believe that "books can provide, perhaps better than any other medium, the intellectual and affective foundation for comprehending geography and place." Since 1990 the Center for American Places publishing division, in association with university presses including Johns Hopkins University Press, has produced more than 140 titles, in their categories of American Land Classics, Creating the North American Landscape, and The Road and American Culture. We, at the CLUI, feel that their stated mission, "to enhance the public’s understanding of the natural and built environment," is compatable with ours, and we are delighted to have the opportunity to provide their books to a CLUI audience.
 - Sarah Simons, CLUI Publications Manager


Disarming the Prairie
Terry Evans, 1998, paperback, 100 pages, $29.95
The vast Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie Park, located 40 miles southwest of downtown Chicago, was created in 1997 on the site of the Joliet Army Arsenal, which was once the world's largest TNT factory. Landscape photographer Terry Evans explores the remnants of America's military-industrial complex on a remediated environment and the transformation of a former military base into a unique nature preserve and public recreation area, in this book of beautiful color photographs. The introductory essay by Tony Hiss includes historical photographs of a place which once "produced every week the explosive equivalent of 290 atomic bombs similar to the one dropped on Hiroshima."

The Sanitary City: Urban Infrastructure in America from Colonial Times to the Present
Martin V. Melosi, 2000, hardcover, 578 pages, $59.95
This book examines water supply, wastewater, and solid-waste-disposal systems in U.S. cities from the colonial era to the present day. Solutions to the problems of sanitation, water delivery, and wate removal, from the horse-drawn Studebaker patent Uniform Pressure Street Flusher to the Hyperion Waste Water Treatment Plant are explored, as well as the changes in how Americans view waste and sanitation in urban life, and the modern issues of decaying infrastructure, recycling, and demand for available land for disposal sites.

The New American Village
Bob Thall, 1999, paperback, 100 pages, $24.95
The seemingly abandoned corporate office parks, townhouse developments, strip malls, and model homes in this book of haunting black and white photographs seem to exist in an empty hushed world full of mysterious meaning.   Thall has created an austere beauty from the extreme banality of a place where, he writes, "Everything, for hundreds of square miles, looked much the same to me. The lack of trees, the cheap standardized construction, the ceaseless flow of cars, the acres of blacktop and concrete, and the unwalkable distances across open, flat land would leave me with an overwhelming and chilling sense of desolation."

Measure of Emptiness: Grain Elevators in the American Landscape
Frank Gohlke, 1992, paperback, 105 pages, $29.95
The Midwest is characterized by the spaciousness and the flat emptiness of the landscape, and, rising from it, enormous grain elevators, which "... announce the presence of a town and explain, in great measure, the function of its inhabitants." The photographer Frank Gohlke has pondered and documented this relationship for the past two decades, and the black and white photographs in this book cover the period of the mid-1970s. His introductory essay discusses the pervasive mystique these large structures have, and how the area has changed since these photographs were taken. A concluding historical essay by John C. Hudson examines the development and function of the grain elevator and its geographical and economic role in Anerican life.

Fast Food: Roadside Restaurants in the Automobile Age
John A. Jakle and Keith A. Sculle, 1999, hardcover, 394 pages, $34.95
The rise of car culture encouraged "eating on the run," and this book, by the authors of The Gas Station in America and The Motel in America, explores the origins, architecrture, and commercial growth of wayside eateries in the United States over the past 100 years. Organized in chapters such as "Ice Cream Places," "Chicken Places," "Pizza Places," the book comprehensively explores the array of eateries available to the American traveler, from the novelty stands and architectural imaginitiveness of the 1950s, to the current day, where "intentional sameness of design 'welcomes' every interstate driver."

Invisible New York: The Hidden Infrastructure of the City
Stanley Greenberg, 1998, hardcover, 90 pages, $29.95
With a 4x5 monorail view camera and using only available light, Stanley Greenberg's black and white photographs of sites in New York City's boroughs offer a dark and poetic view of the hidden and often abandoned infrastructure of the area. As Thomas H. Garver points out, in his introductory essay, "the result is a body of photographs that peer into deep space, usually surrounded by a powerful structural framing element of stone, steel, or concrete." This elegantly designed book illuminates the monumental and tragic beauty of these stark images.

Recent Terrains: Terraforming the American West
Laurie Brown and Martha Ronk, 2000, paperback, 94 pages, $24.95
Laurie Brown's panoramic black and white photographs of the vistas of displaced earth from development projects and housing developments in southern California, are prefaced by poems by Martha Ronk, forming an evocative and almost elegiac view of these dehumanized but profoundly shaped-by-human tracts of land. The long narrow format of this book and rather small size of the sixty images heighten the intensity of the photographs, causing one to feel that one is viewing the still aftermath of cataclysmic destruction.

Silent Screens: The Decline and Transformation of the American Movie Theater
Michael Putnam, 2000, hardcover, 102 pages, $39.95
In the early 1980s Michael Putnam began photographing closed theaters, theaters that had been converted to other uses, theaters on the verge of collapse, theaters being demolished, and vacant lots where theaters once stood. The once ubiquitous single-screen movie theater is all but gone, and this book documents that vanished world through Putnam's photographs, and essays by Peter Bogdanovich, Andrew Sarris, Molly Haskell, Robert Sklar, and others.

Registered Places of New Mexico: The Land of Enchantment
Cotton Mather and George F. Thompson, 1995, hardcover, 94 pages, $19.95
This book is the first volume in the Center for American Places' Registered Places of America series, which attempts to explore the idea of place as the means to appreciate and comprehend a region or a state. Thirty one places in New Mexico are examined in this attractive book, for their beauty, historical and geographical significance, and architectural and cultural heritage.

Superfund: The Political Economy of Environmental Risk
John A. Hird, 1994, paperback, 315 pages, $16.95
The author, an environmental policy and public policy analysis professor, analyses the multibillion dollar federal hazardous waste cleanup program established in 1980, known as Superfund, in all of its controversial aspects. After examining the conflicts between risk experts and the public over the severity of Superfund site hazards, and the complicated politics involved in the Superfund program, he recommends policy reforms.

The Last Great Necessity: Cemeteries in American History
David Charles Sloane, 1991, paperback, 293 pages, $19.95
Cemeteries in America have gradually changed from churchyards to suburban memorial parks, from sacred refuges to business ventures, and their role as a cherished repository of history and memories has been usurped by historical societies and family albums. This book, illustrated with black and white   photographs, traces the cemetery's rich legacy from colonial times to the twentieth century.