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A Prayer for the City Paperback – December 29, 1998


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; First Edition edition (December 29, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679744940
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679744948
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.2 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #154,866 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

We've had our share of "season with the team" books about basketball, baseball, and football, so why not a book about an event of political importance: an insider's account of an entire term of a big city mayor? And it might as well be about one of America's best, most interesting mayors, Philadelphia's Ed Rendell. Buzz Bissinger follows Rendell, his chief of staff, and four other Philadelphians through four years of his sincere, flamboyant struggle against Philadelphia's crushing poverty--four years of dealing with the staff, the press, the constituents, and the feds. It doesn't end with the eradication of the city's many social ills, but it does end with a second term, and with hope. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Bissinger is the author of Friday Night Lights (LJ 8/90), a contributing editor at Vanity Fair, and a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who worked at the Chicago Tribune and the Philadelphia Inquirer. After following the administration of Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell for four years, he provides a passionate account of big-city life and politics in the 1990s that puts a human face on the problems and promise of urban America. From his portrayal of the mayor's anguish in comforting the families of slain and injured police officers, which serves as a prolog, to his discussion of union negotiations, crime fighting, and economic decline in later chapters, Bissinger offers a compelling narrative. Scholars will appreciate the inside political story, and lay readers will appreciate the heroes. Highly recommended for all collections.
-?William L. Waugh, Georgia State Univ., Atlanta
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Truly a beautiful book.
Jay Liebowitz
This is a great book about the crisis in Philadelphia during the Ed Rendell administration.
Alex B.
This is one of those books that will open your eyes and change your view of the world.
ezreid@inav.net

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Federalist51 on October 27, 1998
Format: Hardcover
When Ed Rendell took office, he promised that he would work overtime to saving Philadelphia. From that moment on, Buzz Bissinger was there to record his successes and failures. His new journalism prose not only tells Rendell's story, but takes the reader through the process by which this once-great American city has withered under the pressures of crime, poverty, drugs, unemployment, and population loss. Bissinger explains, in part, why people leave the city for the suburbs and how the Federal government's urban policy has favored suburban sprawl and encouraged a white flight during the past 50 years. Through the eyes of a ship-yard worker, a dedicated preacher, a city prosecutor, and a hopeful woman who moves to the city in the hope of preserving it, Bissinger adds the voices of common folks to his narrative. But, in the end, the book blends hope and despair. In spite of his efforts, Rendell's work is not enough. A mayor alone cannot save the city, so long as his ideas are held hostage by the recalcitrant forces of greedy unions and politicos who owe their careers to demagoguery and racially divisive politics. Bissinger doesn't pull any punches in this area: he talks not only about corrupt cops, but about the leaders in Philadelphia's ethnic communities who refuse to cooperate with Rendell because they'd rather reap political gain by publicly parting with him. In the end, it is clear that even though Rendell is the hardest working mayor in the city's history, even he can't do enough. It will not only take a reform-minded mayor and administration, but a willing citizenry and a serious alteration in Federal and State policy before we can revitalize the American city. But electing Ed Rendell seems like the best possible start, and a refreshing contrast to the out-of-touch political operatives who regularly grace our newsprint and televisions.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By LAM on September 17, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In many ways, Buzz Bissinger's "A Prayer for the City" is one of the most remarkable books ever written about an American city.
In stark and sometimes shocking detail, Bissinger lays out the crises assailing the modern urban core: violence, poverty, economic development, poor public educational systems and so on. What's truly wonderful about Bissinger's book is that he leaves so many questions open. He isn't shallow or dismissive about these urban dilemmas; Bissinger doesn't give pat answers or bromides about how these problems can be solved.
And that's a remarkable achievement on the author's part, particularly given the manner in which he structures this book. Though he sketches the lives of several Philadelphia citizens, there are undeniably two central characters in this book: Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell and his Chief of Staff David Cohen. In some ways -- and I think Bissinger purposefully and effectively conveys this image - Rendell and Cohen should be seen as two sides of the same coin.
Both Rendell and Cohen possess essential characteristics that will be needed in the fight to save the city, but the skills of each are different and, as such, they need each other to do what must be done. Rendell is the affable, easy-mannered, though sometimes short-tempered old politician who is out front. Cohen is the workaholic lawyer whose ruthless attention to the minutiae and detail of public policy brings him 17-hour days and little public glory. The highly public role Rendell plays is layed out in one particularly moving section toward the beginning of the book. Bissinger details a funereal November, 1994 car ride that Rendell took to a city hospital where a police patrolman who had been shot was being treated.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By DAVID S JACKSON on July 30, 2000
Format: Paperback
Buzz Bissinger, whose book "Friday Night Lights" is a provocative page-turner on the world of high school sports, accomplishes the same effect with urban government here. I was born and raised within 30 miles of Philadelphia and now live in Houston, and this book drained my emotions about the city I still think of as home as well as my new home. In showing how Ed Rendell used all of his character and will to turn the city around, and also demonstrating how he was powerless in many of his attempts to achieve reform, Bissinger proves that Rendell fought the good fight and that others must as well if our cities are to be saved. His final chapter, on the fate of the city's Navy yard, pulses with human drama.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Michael J. Berquist on December 3, 1999
Format: Hardcover
The city of Philadelphia was two-steps from fiscal chaos in 1991 when Ed Rendell was elected mayor. In just four years Rendell pulled the city from the brink of disaster with hard work and gritty determination. This book is an outstanding narrative of Rendell's first term as mayor, giving the reader a wonderful look at the way the city government works and what life is like for the residents of one of America's greatest cities. Anyone who reads this book will become an instant fan of Mayor Rendell and the author.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By LEON L CZIKOWSKY on May 31, 2005
Format: Paperback
Ed Rendell allowed a writer, Buzz Bissinger, to shadow him during his first term as Mayor of Philadelphia. This book is the result of what Buzz saw during those four years. It provides an extremely candid insight into what Ed Rendell is like as a person while dramatically presenting the difficulties facing a large city Mayor.

"A Prayer for the City" also follows the lives of four Philadelphians during this same period. This makes for interesting contrasts that shows how the story of Philadelphia during this era affected people differently. Although, I wonder why, after several years of following a Mayor around, the book did not concentrate more on the Mayor.

The book shows Ed Rendell, the person, flaws and strengths. Ed Rendell is presented as a strongly driven man who works hard, knows his goals, and does his best to reach those goals. This is seen in contract negotiations where he know what he wanted entering, he knew contingencies, and he knew how to reach his goals, which included allowing others to gain credit and his opposition to come to agreement by being able to walk away from the negotiating table with the ability to claim victory, or else the agreements would never have been reached. Agree or disagree with the result, this ability to engage in complex and strategic thinking and reacting allows readers to conclude that Ed Rendell is a very skilled and driven leader.

Ed Rendell is seen as a hard worker, but as one who doesn't react well to overexertion. He is conflicted by the expectations that the Mayor must go to the hospital of any wounded police officer, knowing that a private family time can be seen as being inappropriately disturbed by a politician and the media.
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