The Center for Land Use Interpretation Newsletter

Book Reviews

Books New to the Shelves of the CLUI Library and Bookshop

Everyday America: Cultural Landscape Studies After J. B. Jackson, Chris Wilson and Paul Groth, editors, University of California Press, 2003
A new collection of essays on the subject of J. B. Jackson, by those who knew him, and of the field that he represented, that of contemporary cultural landscape studies, who, among other things said, basically, as one of the essays reminds us, that the landscape is like a book, “...we have but to learn to read it.”

The Half-Life of Salt, Charles Hood, Fountain Mountain Press, 2002
This book poem traces the trajectory of the Enola Gay and the atomic bomb from the places of their independent inceptions to their brief combination, and fatal separation above Hiroshima. The book is written in a mix of poetry and prose, a precise condensation of language that allows more for notions than conventional narrative would allow, and for vivid recreations of the places to form, including depictions of Wendover, Utah, where the author spent some time observing conditions as a CLUI Wendover Resident.

Preserving Cultural Landscapes in America, Arnold R Alanen and Robert Z. Melnick, editors, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000
A collection of essays exposing some of the issues that come to bear in the process of selecting and isolating places for special treatment as culturally significant sites. Contributors include landscape architects, historians, and anthropologists.

Zones of Exclusion: Pripyat and Chernobyl, Robert Polidori, Steidl, 2003
A just about perfect coffee table sized photo book of the ultimate abandoned landscape: Chernobyl and the surrounding area.

Architecture / Nature, Alexander Timtschenko, Universidad Salamanca, 2003
While it is not unusual to photograph places that are self-consciously unrealistic versions of other places, like Las Vegas’s Venice, or natural history dioramas, Timtschenko’s photographs reveal a benevolent beauty and tranquility in these spaces, beyond the obvious irony.

Readymades: American Roadside Artifacts, Jeff Brouws, Chronicle Books, 2003
More than yet another celebration of roadside kitsch, this little photo book is a playful sampler of American road and highway typologies - pickup trucks, abandoned gas stations, box cars, trailers, signage - and indicates the work of a hyperdocumenter of considerable skill and energy.

Running Fence, Geoffrey James, Presentation House Gallery, 1999
A black and white photo book of the Mexico/USA border, looking at the fence itself, and its edges, between Otay Mountain and the Pacific Ocean, one of the more dramatic portions of the border.

Architecture of Incarceration, Academy Editions, 1994
Big photos, a few essays, and diagrams depict monumental prison architecture, focussing on several contemporary examples. There is an interesting promotional representation of these projects in this book, as the images and blurbs were supplied by the architecture firms themselves.

Waste and Want: A Social History of Trash, Susan Strasser, Owl Books, 1999
A nice book on the evolution of the domestic waste stream and the historic perceptions and definitions of what constitutes “trash.”

American Ruins, Camilo José Vergara, Monacelli Press, 1999
Each of Vergara’s publications modestly express some of the most startling visions of America’s contemporary landscape. We agree with the MacArthur Foundation: he is a national treasure.

Oneida Community: The Breakup, 1876-1881, Constance Noyes Robertson, Syracuse University Press, 1972
Much has been written about the nearly successful 19th Century intentional community of Oneida, and much of it written by its highly educated member’s offspring. This volume, by the visionary founder’s granddaughter, provides details of the demise of the innovative group from upstate New York, who developed and practiced many progressive social structures, including communal ownership of property and communal “association” - marriage.

Red Land, Blue Land, Claudio Hils, Hatje Cantz Verlag, 2000
Nice photographs of a military training area, with a mock town, dummies, and all sorts of other targets and props, in the North Rhine-Westfalia district in Germany. We are unclear about why there aren’t more books of this sort.

100 Suns, Michael Light, Knopf, 2003
The photo archive miner and artist Michael Light, who a few years ago culled NASA’s public photo archive to create the book and photo series Full Moon, has turned this time to the images of the atmospheric nuclear testing program, and published an elegant, large, black book that should appeal to more than just explosion fetishists. We eagerly await his aerial photography project about the American West which will no doubt be an epic too.

The Promise of Paradise, Hubert B. Stroud, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995
Subtitled “Recreational and Retirement Communities in the United States Since 1950,” this is a rare book on the subject, and of great use and interest. Discusses several sites in detail, including Lake Havasu, AZ, Rio Rancho, NM, and Cape Coral, FL. Part of the Creating the North American Landscape series of Johns Hopkins and the Center for American Places.

James Dean Died Here: The Locations of America’s Pop Culture Landmarks, Chris Epting, Santa Monica Press, 2002
This book lists over 600 locations on a variety of subjects, from celebrity scandal sites to movie locations. Though it is illustrated with small black and white photographs, the focus is on locating the sites, and directional information is provided for places without street addresses. Very handy.

Guide to the Beautiful and Historic Lucerne Valley and Vicinity, Bill Mann, Shortfuse Publishing, 2003
The latest and fifth of Bill Mann’s guidebook series, each of which covers a separate part of the Mojave Desert. For the Lucerne Valley, he picks 55 sites including many old mining ruins, old homesteads, natural “curiosities” like rock outcrops and circular plant formations, as well as some microgems like the ruined manufactured home turned into a dinosaur, and an unexplained upside down cement boat hull in the desert.

New Atlantis Revisited: Akademgorodok, the Siberian City of Science, Paul. R. Josephson, Princeton University Press, 1997
A history of the still extant, extremely isolated R&D and theoretical study center, built by the Soviets in the late 1950’s, to house and direct the high science of the empire.