Vanishing America – seriously?










One of the contributors to the Anthology gift guide recommended the book Vanishing America: The End of Main Street Diners, Drive-Ins, Donut Shops, and Other Everyday Monuments.  It looks like it’s full of beautiful pictures of small town America.  It looks like some of the pictures that we take around here.  And yet…I don’t feel like Geneva is vanishing.  Sure, we have strip malls and Walmart, but we also have barber shops and a yarn store.  Maybe we’re lucky because there appears to be a reasonably stable economic base (e.g. the colleges, the industrial park, Cornell agriculture centre, the hospital).  Maybe luck isn’t the right word.  The City is taking an active role and has recently developed a new economic development plan (you can find more info on the City’s Dollars and Sense budget blog).

I feel conflicted about this book — even though  I haven’t actually read it (I’ve only looked at the photos on!  It seems to romanticize the past.  Which is fine, I guess.  I’m doing it too, after all.  Just look at my previous post.

I guess if you understand America through its architecture, then yes, it certainly is changing.  Even though this book appears to contain lots of images of buildings, the buildings themselves have obviously not vanished (even if they are dilapidated).  Rather, the author seems to suggest that the way of life that went along with these buildings has vanished (why go to the drive-in when you can build your own home theater!).  This book seems to be a lament for a certain way of life.  And I’m not entirely sure that I agree that this way of life is disappearing….


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