Adam Gopnik at The New Yorker:
Jane Jacobs’s aura was so powerful that it made her, precisely, the St. Joan of the small scale. Her name still summons an entire city vision—the much watched corner, the mixed-use neighborhood—and her holy tale is all the stronger for including a nemesis of equal stature: Robert Moses, the Sauron of the street corner. The New York planning dictator wanted to drive an expressway through lower Manhattan, and was defeated, the legend runs, by this ordinary mom.
Even after the halo above the saint’s head fades, however, we have to make sense of the ideas that rattled around inside. I. F. Stone’s independence remains thrilling to every blogger, or should, but his attempts in retirement to reconcile Jefferson and Marx seem less inspiring than impossible. Now, in the year of Jane Jacobs’s centenary, with the biography out there, along with a new collection of her uncollected writings, “Vital Little Plans: The Short Works of Jane Jacobs” (Random House), and an anthology of conversations between her and various friends, “Jane Jacobs: The Last Interview and Other Conversations” (Melville House), it seems fair to pay her the compliment of taking her seriously—to ask what exactly she argued for, and what exactly we should think about those arguments now.