Friday, August 15, 2008

What is Mark Kingwell reading?

The current featured contributor to Writers Read: Mark Kingwell, author of the newly released Concrete Reveries: Consciousness and the City. Kingwell is a philosopher and critic who is currently professor of philosophy at the University of Toronto. He is the author of many books, including Better Living: In Pursuit of Happiness from Plato to Prozac and Nearest Thing to Heaven: The Empire State Building and American Dreams. He is a contributing editor for Harper’s Magazine and he has written for The New York Times Magazine, Adbusters, Forbes, and Utne Reader.

About Concrete Reveries:
An exploration of urbanism, personal identity, and how the space we live in shapes us

According to philosopher and cultural critic Mark Kingwell, the transnational global city—New York and Shanghai—is the most significant machine our species has ever produced. And yet, he says, we fail again and again to understand it. How do cities shape us, and how do we shape them? That is the subject of Concrete Reveries, which investigates how we occupy city space and why place is so important to who we are.

Kingwell explores the sights, smells, and forms of the city, reflecting on how they mold our notions of identity, the limits of social and political engagement, and our moral obligations as citizens. He offers a critique of the monumental architectural supermodernism in which buildings are valued more for their exteriors than for what is inside, as well as some lively writing on the significance of threshold structures like doorways, lobbies, and porches and the kinds of emotional attachments we form to ballparks, carnival grounds, and gardens. In the process, he gives us a whole new set of models and metaphors for thinking about the city.

With a spectacular interior design and more than seventy-five photos, Concrete Reveries will appeal to fans of Jane Jacobs, Witold Rybczynski, and Alain de Botton’s The Architecture of Happiness.
From Kingwell's Writers Read entry:
I read Cormac McCarthy’s The Road ... [which] strikes me as a book without a good ending. I was surprised at the acclaim since it is really just a pallid version of Russell Hoban’s post-apocalyptic masterpiece, Riddley Walker. Where McCarthy describes (brilliantly, yes) the workaday details of survival, Hoban extends and expands language as a form of endgame consciousness. George Saunders’s Civilwarland in Bad Decline, which I read earlier this summer, is more inventive than McCarthy, and funnier (not hard!). The stories are a little too similar, but taken apart are like nothing else being written today. [read on]
Learn more about Mark Kingwell and his work at his University of Toronto faculty webpage.

Writers Read: Mark Kingwell.

--Marshal Zeringue