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The Brooklyn Bridge: A Cultural History (Rivergate Regionals Collection) Paperback – May 5, 2008
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Richard Haw looks at a series of cultural and historical sources to show us how the bridge's history has been gilded over more times than it has been painted; and people like me are not mere party poopers but members of a long tradition of dissenters (as well as assenters) who have help to build the bridge into an international icon long since the final bolt was fastened into place.
Central to Haw's understanding of bridge is the footpath as a unique urban street and the experience of the pedestrian or cyclist crossing it. Starting on the Brooklyn side, the walker rises out of the dirt and exhaust of Tillary Street and downtown Brooklyn into the clear air above the bridge's roadways. Between the arches, the walker is elevated above the skyscrapers of lower Manhattan - alone at the top - before descending into the chaos and anonymity of lower Manhattan. On summer days the bridge serves as a parade ground for legions of tourists.
Haw's relationship with the bridge is complicated and his pursuit of information that might clarify or nuance his position is obsessive.Read more ›
Mr. Haw seems to have read or viewed every cultural text that references the bridge and this extensive scholarship is laudable. At the same time, Mr. Haw, whose main theme is officialdom's exclusion of countervailing interpretations and histories of the bridge, should have given more thought to excluding some of the minor works he cites. True, there are works once thought to be minor whose reputations have waxed over time and vice versa. In addition, minor works can be employed to exemplify important insights, a strategy Mr. Haw uses very effectively, but a more rigorous selection of such minor works would have served to sharpen this history with little cost to it comprehensiveness. But this is a minor quibble.
As Mr. Haw's relates the official and non-official versions of the bridge's history and the meanings ascribed to it, he shows how official versions, such as the opening day speeches, present an idealized bridge freighted with high civic aspirations - democracy, social and economic justice, etc. -- but actually exclude the voice of the average citizen and worker, and not just from the speeches and images, but from the ceremonies, too.Read more ›