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The Brooklyn Bridge: A Cultural History (Rivergate Regionals Collection) Paperback – May 5, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"In the most important work on the Brooklyn Bridge in a generation, Richard Haw shows how and why it remains a central but contested American icon."

About the Author

Richard Haw completed his Ph.D. in his hometown at the University of Leeds before permanently settling in New York. He is a professor of literature and writing at CUNY's John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
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Product Details

  • Series: Rivergate Regionals Collection
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Rutgers University Press; Reprint edition (May 5, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0813543509
  • ISBN-13: 978-0813543505
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.7 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,916,381 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover
Back in 1983 when I was 15 I threw a full-scale protest against attending the Brooklyn Bride centennial birthday celebration. "I don't care about the bridge, I hate Brooklyn and I don't like birthday parties", I fumed before storming off back home. (I ended up watching the fireworks and accompanying commentary by then Mayor Ed Koch on TV). My position on the bridge has since softened but only to the point of gentle ambivalence. I wondered why am I such a crank to such a beloved icon (or is it a monument? I'll have to check with homeland security).

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.
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Format: Hardcover
For students of U.S. cultural history, Richard Haw's THE BROOKLYN BRIDGE offers a complete, and engagingly written interpretation of the cultural meanings and materials inspired and evoked by this iconic American structure. Those who work in cultural studies would be wise to acquire this book, not only for Haw's superlative treatment of the bridge's cultural history, but because Mr. Haw also identifies and nimbly employs the discipline's key theoretical texts. His end notes are especially detailed and useful.

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.
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