Book Reviews -- Magic Lands: Western Cityscapes and American Culture after 1940 by John M. Findlay

Article excerpt

In many ways this book recapitulates the American Dream and experience as it has played out in this country from the beginning. From the start Americans had to deal with plenty of space, which was different from any they had known before. People on the land and their relationship to that land had not been a part of the people's culture before.

This breadth of space lessened many tensions but it also, paradoxically, created new tensions as people found themselves widely separated one from another. And as the culture aged, tensions were created between the established and the new and working. The far West, of course, being the most widely separated from the older colonies and being the most susceptible to being entirely different epitomized what might be done with a new land in a new world. Among the many examples that might have been used, Findlay chose four: Disneyland "The Happiest Place on Earth," the Stanford Industrial Park: "Downtown for Silicon Valley," Sun City, Arizona: New Town for Old Folks" and The Seattle World's Fair of 1962.

Disneyland, trying to exploit the opportunities of developing Orange County, California, was literally a dream World, a look back into the idealized dream of the past. Silicon Valley was envisioned by Stanford University as Perfection of the scientific mind and community. Sun City was a more radical development since it was predicated on the furthering of the Levittown concept with an improvement. …