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March 20, 2008

Rana : Ask Rana

Who's Your Google?

« Basing location on your career only? | Main | LGA is Living Hell »

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We (Me, Richard, Avi from Google, Greg from Basic Books) are off to the Manhattan Googleplex this afternoon for the book launch of Who's Your City?  If you are attending or attended the speech, post your comments or questions here...

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rana

Book reviews are posted here as they come in: http://creativeclass.com/whos_your_city/articles/


RF

The Washington Monthly review is behind their pay wall. There are new reviews in the Financial Times and the Chronicle of Higher Education today. We will post as they are available digitally. In a couple of weeks, once the book tour is over, I will post a response to all reviewers whose comments I very highly values. New ideas can only come from criticism,debate and dialogue.

anonymous

The Wash Monthly really panned the book, calling it "painful to read," sputtering along "on lifeless anecdotes and bad jokes...and obviously manufactured quotes." More than the "poor writing," though, the review panned the book as being nothing more than about "Richard Florida's preoccupation with Richard Florida."

Ouch.

I guess that "pay wall" is convenient.

Daniel Lieuwen

It was a fun talk. Following up on the issue we discussed afterwards, I wonder if the anger felt in America toward the creative class may be due to not simply one group doing worse than another but one group doing worse because of what benefits others. Diversity benefits the creative class. Some research indicates that the more ethnically diverse the neighborhood the less neighborly it becomes with people less likely to help each other. That's a cost the creative class can live with---they can afford to pay for help. Those being left behind cannot, so they get hammered when they have problems. The same thing is true for low-skill immigration. It benefits the higher income creative class, who hire them to do work they don't want to do. The left-behinds cannot afford as many of their services and see them undercutting them in the labor market. I could go on and on, but the class interests seem nearly irreconcilable. People fear what your student said about Shanghai where the rich live better than we do, but the poor live in "pre-civilized conditions". (Or even Western Europe, where the left-behinds will not be overly materially impoverished, but with high rates of unemployment, they are marginalized--its hard to feel good about yourself if you are unemployed even if you aren't suffering.) Any solutions?

RF

The WM review did not deal seriously with the ideas in the book at all. It criticized elements of my writing style and well me. I am open to that, but would hope that a serious reviewer would take on the ideas in the book, not cheap shots at the author or his/her style. The reviewer has a track record of blasting books this way - note his similar review of Taylor Clark's interesting book on Starbucks. But as I said, I will be responding to all reviews and criticism here in due course. I actually find the dialogue to be the best and most revealing part.

One more note: In the future, we will not be accepting anonymous comments. If you'd like to comment here, we'd love to have you. We welcome critics and viewpoints other than our own. But please use your name or at least one of your on-line identities.

RF

I actually re-read the review. The reviewer actually has nothing but good things to say about the concepts and constructs in the book. He applauds the first part of the book about the world being spiky and the rise of the mega-region, calling it a much-needed correction of the more dominant Tom Friedman flat world view. I actually would not call it a correction but the other half of the explanation. He then literally cheers the sections on place and happiness and says that he found the material on place and personality extremely interesting and novel. He goes on to say that the place rankings by life-stage seem empirically reasonable to him - he calls them "fairly sophisticated"- though he can't differentiate if they are for the creative class or for everyone. The book says quite clearly they're for everyone.

So what doesn't he like. For one, the introduction about my appearance on Stephen Colbert. He says it's clunky. perhaps it is. He also doesn't like my personal anecdotes, especially the one about my Dad. The quote is as accurate a recollection as I have. Maybe he thought my dad would have said "shitty pay," but then again my dad didn't swear. He doesn't like me talking about my own life. Frankly he doesn't seem to like me, but hey that's OK. He doesn't like the line about "Paris and Nicole." All fair enough.
I will only add that I had at least three very serious writers but their eyes and hands on the book. My first editor is a young fellow who graduated from the University of Iowa's writing and rhetoric program and was an editor of their relatively prestigious paper. The second a literature major and graduate of Brown who works at the Atlantic Monthly. The third my most talented editor at Basic Books. I can't blame any of them for my writing., but if it was REALLY that bad, don't you think one of them would have either told me or tried to fix it up just a little.

So I go back to the notion that the reviewer really doesn't like me. How do I get to that. Relatively early in the review, he has a throw off line where he says the book is essentially a "hybrid between the academic form that gave Florida his start and the professional-advice-giver he's since become."
Where would he get that. I give a couple dozen speeches a year. I do not professional consulting personally. I actually give very little advice to anyone. I remain a social scientist who conducts research, directs a large scale institute and publishes scholarly papers. The work on mega-regions, happiness and especially personality is being done with leading people and appears in scholarly journals. But apparently that doesn't count.

The only real criticism of my ideas comes toward the end of the review where he discusses my last chapter and after saying I "deserve credit" for trying to provide a framework for people to make their location decisions contends that my framework is over-simplistic. Yes, no, maybe so: but it is based on every single construct in the book, reflects two decades plus of research and draws on hundreds upon hundreds of studies. The intent was to try to translate that slew of information into something helpful, usable and ... well ... simple. He chastises me for not helping him know whether the "satisfaction of feeling at home in a bagel store outweighs a 50 percent drop in commuting time."

That to me suggests he's missed the main point of the book. What the book says is I cannot tell him or anyone else that. People are different. Some want the bagel store, others want a suburb. Some hate cars and want to walk, others like long drives from their exurb. We all want different things in our community. That's why I wrote the book, actually.

Michael Wells

The Washington Monthly review seems to be divided into two parts. The sections that are about the book's content are pretty good observations, if sometimes nitpicky.

The other part is in the snide tone that seems to be required in alternative newspapers, often not about the subject but how the writer "felt" about the subject. He probably doesn't dislike you so much as this style requires a certain kind of negativity, whatever the topic.

Zoe B

I think Daniel Lieuwen has raised an important point. As we get more excited and exacting about the choices we can make to improve our lives, there is a growing service class that sees its choices and prospects shrinking. I wonder if some of them have chosen to support Hillary BECAUSE Barack is getting the creatives' vote.

I also agree with Michael Wells about the snide posturing often found in alternative newspapers. Twenty-odd years ago that 'personal honesty' seemed sharp and liberating, now it mostly feels like unacknowledged envy of others' success. Some folks may believe this sort of reverse snobbery is a sign of sophistication. Today I mostly find it a bore.

Michael R. Bernstein

Richard, was the Google talk recorded? Will it eventually show up here?:
http://www.youtube.com/profile_videos?user=AtGoogleTalks

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