#224: No Place Is Perfect

When Thomas More wrote Utopia in the 16th century, he ensured that all those who would seek out a perfect society, inspired by his book, would have to answer for the literal Greek meaning of its title: “no place.” So, has there ever been a utopia? It depends on whom you ask. Adrian Shirk, who joined Smarty Pants several years ago to talk about her previous book, takes utopia to mean communities that “have intentionally understood themselves as world-building a way out of a death-dealing system, in the service of making, if only briefly, some idea of heaven on earth—not just for themselves, but however foolhardy, for all of humankind.” From that definition—and from the bop by Belinda Carlisle, of course—comes the title of her new book, Heaven Is a Place on Earth, an exploration of moments and movements in American utopianism then, today, and tomorrow, from the Shakers to the rebuilding of the Bronx to a Waffle House by the side of the road.

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