Back to The Edge for a bit

bb_m_in_a.jpgWe’re going on a trip soon, back to the motherland, to visit my mother (and many others). I’ve been reading a great book on loan from zurika about the American influence on the English language. Here’s a quote that struck me.

Made in America, by Bill Bryson:

As early as 1955, the phenomenon was noticed by the writer A.C. Spectorsky, who coined the term exurbia for this new kind of community that was emotionally and economically independent from the metropolis that had spawned it, but it was not until 1991, when a Washington Post reporter named Joel Garreau wrote a book called Edge City, that this vast transition in linving patterns gained widespread notice.

To qualify as an edge city by Garreau’s definition, a community must have 5 million square feet of office space, 600,000 square feet of shopping, and more people working there than living there. America now has more than 200 edge cities. Los Angeles and New York have about two dozen each. Almost all have been created since 1960, and almost always they are soulless, impersonal places, unfocused collections of shopping malls and office complexes that are ruthlessly unsympathetic to non-motorists. Many have no pavements or pedestrian crossings, and only rarely do they offer any but the most skeletal public transport links to the nearby metropolis, effectively denying job opportunities to many of those left behind in the declining inner cities. About one-third of all Americans now live in edge cities, and up to two-thirds of American work in them. They are substantial places, and yet most people outside their immediate areas have never heard of them.


empower_airplane_power_adapter.pngIs it really as depressing as all that? Certainly not for us, because of our friends and family and memories there. But for those looking to make a fresh start there, I imagine this description is a pretty good deterrent. What do you think?

Also, for the plane trip, I’m trying to get one of those EmPower adapter thingies (and trying to get seats with a port like that reserved, but I can’t check in until Monday at the earliest). Does anyone have one of those already? Where did you get yours? I’m a little behind the game here — can’t get it purchased online in time for our flight, and there’s probably not time for me to shop for one between now and our departure. is showing a price of about €4, but wants at least $9.99. Yikes.

4 thoughts on “Back to The Edge for a bit”

  1. A S

    Bryson is generally a pretty good writer (what some of his books lack in substance, they make up for in entertainment value), but his works on the English language are riddled with factual errors and myths. I’d advise anyone to read the various one-star reviews of his book “The Mother Tongue” on, many of which are written by “real” linguists with actual knowdledge about the evolution of English.

  2. cliff1976

    Hmm, I read some of those. Pretty scathing. Good to know about that book. Most of the reviews I read about THIS book on are critical of the style, or content, but not factuality (barring one review I read where the reviewer caught three factual problems — one regarding the “puke stockings,” for example).

    Can you cite some specific factual problems with this book of your own?

  3. Megan

    I love Bryson and really connected with his writing once I moved over here. He’s got that expat eye for spotting the ridiculous in our own cultures and the sense of humor that puts the right perspective on the humiliation that can be living abroad.

    As for that bit on edge cities, I can’t speak for the volume that exist now, but I do think we have this plague of soulless dead zones that call themselves cities but lack all the redeeming qualities of one. Their prominent features tend to be these malls and ‘driveable’ shopping areas. Sacramento and San Francisco have plenty and I can’t even remember what most of their real names are. I prefer to forget them as quickly as possible, but they are one of my reasons for dreading a possible job-related re-patriation: I might end up in one. That would be terrible.

    …and as for the Mother Tongue book, I think he actually highlights the important point that the English language is a growing and living thing that has only recently really had rules (that are really more guidelines). The rule followers tend to be really upset about that. They also tend to be really testy about the Oxford comma. They need to relax. ;-)

  4. ann

    Add me to the list of people who loved Bryson until he started talking about a subject about which I was also knowledgeable. (He argues in “A Walk in the Woods” that park rangers with law enforcement commissions should be unarmed – and that in a park which had a number of very high profile homicides – ugh don’t get me started.) “Neither Here nor There” drove me over the edge.

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