Thursday, February 17, 2011

A Sense of Place, A Sense of Time

A Sense of Place, A Sense of Time is a rich collection of short essays written by J.B. Jackson between 1984 and 1994. The compilation is broken into three sections that cover the southwest, human interactions with the environment and modern towns with their cars and roads. Jackson’s writing is distinct, full of details. He examines diverse topics from automobile engine maintenance to the unique features of New Mexico’s landscapes.

Jackson proposes that our sense of place is not necessarily physical, but temporal. He dares us to “ask the average American of the older generation what he or she most clearly remembers and cherishes about the home town… what comes to mind are… nonarchitectural places and events such as … a traditional football rivalry game, a country fair, and certain family celebrations” (p.158-159). Yet in all his pieces, he seems to explore the connection between humans and something – whether an adobe-clad home, or one’s first view from an airplane window. These instances do not have to be memorable – like how one quietly tinkers with the wires in an automobile’s engine. Essentially, Jackson writes about human’s shared experiences.

Jackson has the ability to weave intricate tapestries within his writing. However, in the last chapter, Towns, Cars and Roads, the style loosens and the fabric unravels to a point where the reader wanders between odology and the early years at Landscape magazine. In A Sense of Place, A Sense of Time, each chapter stands as a singular piece yet the overall collection seems to lack cohesion and flow. An updated collection could further develop the context between readings or provide section introductions for the series of pieces.