Wednesday, January 10, 2018

"Vanishing New York, How a Great City Lost Its Soul"

Even writing the name of this book is annoying.  It is written by a Jeremiah Moss, who seemingly is an arrogant, self indulgent drama queen ranting in a way that is way off point.  This book was purchased after reading some incredibly positive book cover style blurbs and a book review in the NYT that was mixed in its opinion, haltingly positive while acknowledging some discomfort with the tone.  What I expected was an interesting history of New York institutions and landmarks and how they have changed, looking at the impact of encroaching gentrification  This book of attacks is not what was expected.

As an example, Moss laments the closing of the Howard Johnsons restaurant in midtown.  He apparently liked to eat there and sees that as indicative of losing the city's soul?  Dude, there is one Howard Johnson's left in America, in upstate Lake George, New York.  There were two but the Bangor, Maine one closed early in 2017.  Having arrived in New York in 1993, he writes about the "legendary" Mars Bar on lower east side where he once sat at the bar with a not too well known poet.  "Legendary"?  It opened in 1984.  Is he mistaking it with with McSorley's.  Who knows.  Any change whatsoever upsets his anal retentive perspective.

He writes about the loss of CBGB's and the Mudd Club.  Max's Kansas City must be in the book somewhere.  Done those here, but they were of their time.  In a vital city they disappeared as they should have.  Different eras have different places.  A better use of Moss's time would be to look for those places that will become markers of his generation's time rather than lamenting the loss that those who experienced it do not feel.

 This is a rambling book of whining.  The hope that it would provide some interesting history was only intermittently satisfied, and often done with the opinions of this guy who is just repeating what he has read elsewhere.  At times the book veers toward the incoherent.  The fact that the "Village Voice" could write that "no one takes stock of New York's changes with the same mixture, snark, sorrow, poeticism, and lyric wit as Jeremiah Moss" is ridiculous.  Who wrote that?  The "Voice" always had its quirks.

Oh well, enough on this.  Manhattan is changing.  It has not disappeared.  Brooklyn changes.  It is still there.  Some of this change is hard to see, some could be viewed as regrettable, some is just obviously inevitable, but it will all evolve in its own way.  New York City has never been about corralling the past.  It is not a museum like Venice.  Moss can lament change as his job.  He seems to enjoy it, and is crying all the way to the bank.

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