Books: Street Smarts

CITY: REDISCOVERING THE CENTER

by William H. Whyte

Doubleday; 386 pages; $24.95

Turn futuristic city planning upside down, argues this fascinating account, and very little falls out of its pockets. What can make cities work again, runs the cheerfully contrarian thesis of urban researcher William H. Whyte (the author, three decades ago, of The Organization Man), is not less congestion but more. Not monorails, fortress office towers and sanitized fourth-floor skyways between buildings, but hot-dog carts, jostling sidewalk crowds, street musicians, handbill passers, eccentrics, arm-waving conversationalists, three-card monte scamsters and girl-watching construction workers. Winos snoozing. Bag ladies muttering. Commotion, confusion, old...

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