My kind of book about my kind of town. It sets sport, music & electoral politics in a social context. Mahler's evocative description of debt-ridden, dangerous and dysfunctional 1977 New York City evokes Hogarthian images of hell on earth. It is hard to believe that the Big Apple has come so far in such a short time. Maybe too lengthy, too detailed prose is devoted to the Mayoral election; however, the tales of the Yankees triumph against the odds in baseball's World Series are gripping page-turners - even for a Brit like me who knows nothing about the sport. A great read.
Jonathan Mahler managed to capture the cultural, social and political condition of New York in the 1970s. This is the New York of legend as ethnic groups like the Italians and the Irish were dispersed with grinding poverty taking its place in urban communities. It is the New York of blaxploitation films like Shaft, gritty crime films like The Taking Of Pelham 123 or the plain grit of Midnight Cowboy and Taxi Driver.
It is the New York of my imagination: the grime and the glitz of David Mancuso's influential parties to the hedonism of Studio 54. What Mahler does is tie in how gay rights, city government irresponsibility, disco, artists, urban blight, the Son of Sam serial killer and the performance of the New York Yankee's formed a cocktail of circumstance that laid the ground for modern New York.
There wouldn't have been loft apartments in Manchester as part of urban regeneration during the 1990s to the present if struggling artists hadn't made them fashionable when they took over the old garment district in New York during the 1970s. Mayor Giuliani's successful policies at tackling crime would not have been possible.
Mahler tells these stories with a passion that carries you along with it, even making the sport of baseball even of interest to me.
I was in my late pre-teens and early adolescence in the period described in this book. But I do remember hearing, as a 10-year old, about New York being on the verge of bankruptcy and asking Uncle Sam for a bailout. I remember, too, the 1976 World Series in which the Reds swept the Yankees. The Yankees had virtually no offensive power, to speak of. It seemed to me that only Thurman Munson (the catcher) was providing the bulk of Yankee offensive power. Alas! it was not enough and conseguently, I fell out of love with the Yankees. To this day, I am NOT a Yankees fan.
The book also talks about Studio 54, the disco & gay scene, the Son of Sam murders, and the 1977 NYC mayoral race. Fascinating stuff. Koch I remember. But I didn't know that Mario Cuomo and Bella Abzug had also run for the mayoralty against Koch, who was a dark horse at the time. I also remember watching an ABC Special Report in July 1977 at the time of the Great Blackout in NYC. Totally blew my mind trying to comprehend how NYC could cope with that!
Then there was the 1977 World Series. I was now a Dodgers fan and expected they would beat the Yankees. Didn't count on "Mr. October" coming to the fore. When Reggie Jackson hit those 3 home runs in that game (which I watched at home in the living room) off of 3 different pitchers (each time off the first pitch), I GROANED. I knew then that the Dodgers couldn't win the Series. Reggie Jackson that day had become like a demigod.
I HIGHLY RECOMMEND this book for any reader who wants to get a good understanding of what life was like in New York during the 1970s.
Though one of its subjects is baseball you don't have to know or like baseball to apprecaite this wonderful book. The author takes us on a trip of New York City starting around 1973 and climaxing in 1977- a summer where the city was ravaged by a blackout and looting, a serial killer named the son of sam, poltical fighting, newspapers vying for the best headlines and a confrontation between Reggie Jackson and his coach with the Yankees. Again if you don't know or like baseball it's easy to skip these chapters, and just concentrate on the other subjects. A very well written book.
A cannot put down book, interweaving the mayoral politics, the baseball (Yankees), and the riots of 1977, in a city one cannot help but admire. Superbly and colourfully written the book is a snapshot of an tumultuous year.