Tuesday, January 09, 2007

when time is like a map of new jersey

Adam Gopnik's "Talk of the Town, Comment, Gothamitis" in the Jan 8 issue caught my attention and held it. Although I've been hearing this particular corporate gentrification sob story from New Yorkers for awhile, Gopnik takes a specific rhetorical event, this Bloomberg speech, and expands on the sort of sad fear it both invokes and attempts to address.

But I don't think I would have read it all the way through - the depressing cliches involving a (cringe) "Greenwich Village bard" and (groan) "Baghdad-on-the-Hudson" - would have scared me off. Except that I had, in the course of my travels to the dark corners and bustling thoroughfares (and concrete bunkers and soul-less main streets) of New York, Philadelphia and Washington, DC read Luc Sante's "My Lost City" in The Best American Essays volume (2004) that (of course) Louis Menand edited. Which provides a kind of picturesque backdrop for Gopnik's argument. Weirdly nostalgic, but, then, not entirely. Anyway, they make a nice pair.

Of course, if Mr. Sante really loves burned out buildings to huddle in, he can move to North Philly.

But I guess what I liked about both pieces was the emphasis on how incredibly myopic citizens (of anywhere, really) can be, and the dangers of that. And how, it would seem, no one would have predicted New York in the 1970s decades before, and how no one can explain, exactly, the recovery and how, unless one seizes control of the planning and plotting of these things, no one will be able to account for New York 2030, among other things.

On a maybe related note, about that smell, did they all totally forget that they are RIGHT NEXT TO NEW JERSEY? I wish Mike Davis would write a New York book. Or has he?

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3 Comments:

Blogger juniper pearl said...

they did not forget--and new jersey's none too happy about it.

10:16 AM  
Blogger zp said...

Yeah, on the one hand finger pointing and scapegoating is kind of tacky. I was thinking more along the lines of this - that the city had some sort of amnesia about the amount of industrial production still necessary to keep everything going.

12:47 PM  
Blogger juniper pearl said...

this reporter felt the need to consult the director of the laboratory of neurogenetics and behavior at rockefeller university to back up the idea that the smell of maple syrup does not make people feel as bad as the smell of natural gas does? geez. i guess somebody has to keep those psychophysicists busy . . . but it'll never be me.

10:28 AM  

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