The perverse impulses of the human spirit to create sheer ugliness have never, unhappily, been easily checked, and the desecration of landscapes with one sort of architectural horror or another has always been a favorite field for release of these energies. Naturally enough, this skill has reached its apex in Our Modern Age with one wondrous achievement: the housing development.
In "The Crack in the Picture Window," a small, sourly humorous book, John Keats examines the more serious implications of these bulldozer-spawned eyesores.
In telling the doleful tale of the Drones, Keats examines many aspects of the new phenomena of these sprawling subdivisions. He finds little that is cheery. In a patriotic fervor, the country endorsed the idea that every veteran was entitled to own his home, and the resulting pieces of Federal legislation created an ideal opportunity for unscrupulous builders. Lured on by "no money down" advertising, married veterans proceeded to burden themselves with jerry-built houses and crushing mortgages, the wheels of credit began to grind, and the John and Mary Drones of America were trapped.
Esthetic considerations are actually of secondary importance in this problem, Keats feels. The damage that is being done is psychological and sociological, for the housing developments as a rule lack the most basic elements of a real community. They are absolutely nonself-sufficient. They are gigantic bedrooms where women and children are trapped day in, day out, and to which the men return for a few hours each night.
What, if any, are the answers to these problems? "The Crack in the Picture Window" suggests a few steps which might abate the horror slightly, but it is by no means an optimistic book. Rather, it is alarming and surprising enough to deserve some thoughtful attention.