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NONFICTION : EDGE CITY: Life on the New Frontier <i> by Joel Garreau (Doubleday: $22.50; 526 pp.)</i>

By “edge city,” Washington Post senior writer Joel Garreau means those verdant landscapes where tree-lined office towers gaze at one another “through bands of glass that mirror the sun in blue or silver or green or gold,” where tasteful signs mark corporations “apparently named after Klingon warriors,” and where there are enough jobs, homes and entertainment to fulfill “all the functions a city ever has.” It’s certainly an appealing vision, and Garreau warmly and elegantly celebrates the way these communities have released us from the “shackles of the 19th Century city.” But while Garreau’s definition fits communities near his home, such as Tysons Corner, Va., it seems to unravel when he tries to apply it to other communities in an effort to suggest a national trend. The “edge cities” of El Segundo and Culver City, for instance, neither resemble the above landscapes nor seem to be more of a center of jobs, shopping, culture and entertainment fulfilling “all the functions a city ever has” than communities not listed as edge cities, such as Santa Monica and Manhattan Beach. Also questionable is Garreau’s notion that edge cities are supremely democratic, created by “wildly independent Americans . . . once again inventing a brand new culture,” for many of them, lacking mayors and city councils, are essentially run by the developers who founded them.


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