From Publishers Weekly
Unlike other great cities, as eminent essayist and New York devotee Lopate (Getting Personal) observes, "Manhattan is almost pathologically averse to letting you wander to the river's edge and get close enough to touch the water." In this loose circumnavigation, first up the West Side from the Battery to Washington Heights and then up the East Side from South Street Seaport to Highbridge Park, he takes the reader up close on an information-packed journeydipping, as the particular location suggests, into memoir, history, current events, marine biology, city planning, literature, architecture, interviews, biography, films, ecology and more. Anyone who relishes the company of Whitman, Melville, both Cranes, even Sara Teasdale, among many other celebrants of the New York waterfront, will particularly enjoy the vicarious sojourn. The trek includes Chelsea Piers and the U.N., Gracie Mansion and the Brooklyn Bridge, Captain Kidd and the Gulf filling station on East 23rd Street. "Sewage and salsa," Lopate invokes in describing Riverbank State Park, and that mix of the problematic and the delightful pervades his account, "saturated with history," of the waterfront's metamorphosis from "a working port, to an abandoned, seedy no-man's-land, to a highly desirable zone of parks plus upscale retail/residential." This is a demanding bookformidable in some of its detail, complex in its broad approach. Tourists will find it enriching but only borderline useful. Its ideal reader, a New Yorker who cares as deeply as Lopate does about the waterfront as "the key to New York's destiny," will find it compelling as well as entertaining.
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*Starred Review* A native New Yorker, avid walker, and impeccable stylist, Lopate, whose last book, Getting Personal
[BKL N 15 03], showcases his signature essays, now presents his breakout book, an illuminating exploration of Manhattan's strangely neglected waterfront. As ardent a researcher as he is an intrepid wanderer, Lopate seamlessly blends witty and candid accounts of his ramblings along the bedraggled edge of this great metropolis with the fruits of his deep reading to create a fascinating narrative that encompasses historical, literary, cultural, aesthetic, and environmental perspectives. By citing sources as diverse as Melville and On the Waterfront
, Lopate celebrates the old "rough-and-ready" waterfront with its spiny perpendicular piers radiating out into the Hudson River like bones from a fish's spine and the "raffish" dockworkers from the days before containerized shipping put an end to Manhattan's maritime vitality. He reconnoiters the entire West Side waterfront from the Battery to Washington Heights, encountering both serene beauty and outright blight, while along the East River he sneaks into the deteriorating interior of the Brooklyn Bridge and ventures out to a deserted island. Dispensing a bounty of curious facts and acute observations, Lopate explicates the interconnectivity of nature and culture, politics and public works, and offers excellent suggestions for reviving Manhattan's moribund waterfront. Step one is to make people care, a feat this compelling travelogue performs to perfection. Donna SeamanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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