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Reactions to Detroit: 138 Square Miles by Julia Rayes Taubman

Detroit: 138 Square MilesDetroit: 138 Square Miles by Julia Reyes Taubman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A big book that makes a big impression. On the downside, much of the photography feels of a lazy, snapshot sort, and many of the images feel like they could be from anywhere (in the Midwest, at least). Placing the text explanations at the back of such a large, unwieldy book makes for a difficult experience of flipping back and forth – poor design. And the emphasis is on the darker, emptier, less lively parts of the city – sort of a gray middle ground between some of the over-the-top ruin porn and celebrations of the burgeoning pockets of life.

But overall, the impact is powerful – you walk away thinking you know more about this massive, sprawling, sadly empty city. The text is well-written – compact and fascinating, with a point of view but not preachy. The scale of the city’s vistas, the obviousness of the early 20th century vitality and radically different ways of viewing progress and development – all comes through.

A physically frustrating book to manage, with a suspicion you’re not getting the whole story, but affecting and probably ultimately endearing. What an interesting way to see Detroit.

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