- Hardcover: 368 pages
- Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1St Edition edition (April 15, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1419357999
- ISBN-13: 978-0374175283
- ASIN: 0374175284
- Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.4 x 1.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 93 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #442,964 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bronx Is Burning: 1977, Baseball, Politics, and the Battle for the Soul of a City 1St Edition Edition
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New York City in 1977 was in the middle of wild upheaval on all fronts, from the hunt for the Son of Sam killer and the citywide blackout to a brutal mayor's race and the rise of punk rock and the zenith of disco. In Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bronx Is Burning, journalist Jonathan Mahler revisits all those storylines through another drama, which grabbed tabloid headlines all summer long: the outrageous--and pennant-winning--New York Yankees. The Yankees weren't the greatest baseball team ever assembled--they weren't even the greatest of the era (the talent-laden Cincinnati Reds were superior player for player). But no modern team has earned more type than the "Bronx Zoo" Yanks of the late '70s, thanks in no small part to such characters as meddling owner George Steinbrenner, firebrand manager Billy Martin, and flashy slugger Reggie Jackson.
But what more is there to say about a ball club, even one as stormy and successful as the '77 Yanks? Mahler wisely strays out of the dugout and into the chaotic city to give his chronicle breadth and shape. Mahler deftly brings together a host of characters and developments--from doomed old-school catcher Thurman Munson to congressional hellraiser Bella Abzug, from media kingpin Rupert Murdoch to battling politicos Ed Koch and Mario Cuomo, from downtown punks to the glittery decadence of Studio 54. The result is a lively read that will entertain readers who wouldn't know an RBI from CBGB. --Steven Stolder
From Publishers Weekly
The strange life of New York City in 1977 is recounted in this kaleidoscopic history. Arguing broadly that that year can be read as "a transformative moment for the city, a time of decay but of regeneration as well," Mahler, a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine, constructs a fast-moving, multilayered narrative that puts the city itself in the starring role. While the argument is not wholly persuasive, Mahler smartly chooses a time frame overflowing with drama: the seemingly endless hunt for the serial murderer "Son of Sam"; the citywide blackout in mid-July that led to devastating arson and looting; the opening of Studio 54 and the disco craze; the bitter mayoral derby featuring the incumbent, Abe Beame, Bella Abzug, Mario Cuomo, and the eventual victor, Ed Koch; and the Yankees' first World Series victory in 15 years, despite the collective histrionics of owner George Steinbrenner, manager Billy Martin and outfielder Reggie Jackson. In many ways, this book is a fascinating prelude to Tom Wolfe's novel The Bonfire of the Vanities. Mahler points to "a new era" after 1977 of idealized capitalism and the subservience of the public good to private interests (one omen: the first Concorde touchdown in New York occurred the day after the '77 World Series victory). Mahler, like Wolfe, understands how characters ranging from a dispossessed arsonist to the titans of business, sports and politics can come to represent an entire city--in its madness, its depravity and its glory. B&w photos.
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Top customer reviews
In other words, Mahler has plenty of material to cover! And so he does, in the form of 67 brief, breezy, detail-filled chapters, replete with authentic eyewitness accounts and seeped in ‘70s “vibe”. Indeed, the narrative is so engaging and readable, I ended up enjoying parts of this I expected merely to endure. (Accounts of political campaigns and labor strikes not being my usually my cup of tea.)
Like many folks my age, I’ve spent much of my life trying to forget that I lived through this turbulent decade in America’s history. Yes, Mahler’s narrative serves as an unstinting, unapologetic reminder of everything that was awful about the 70s. But it also forced me to appreciate the remarkable adaptability and resiliency of American culture. Sure, we’ve faced challenges as a nation – poverty, racism, bigotry, violence, really bad music – but even in the depths of despair, our hope never completely fails, our empathy never entirely falters, our ingenuity endures, and we keeping finding ways to triumph over the forces of greed, intolerance, and general boorishness. A lesson I’m trying to take to heart as our country once against finds itself struggling to rise above our old, familiar demons.
The book was about the crazy year of 1977, and it pretty much nailed it. We really didn't need another 120 pages about 1978. But somehow it felt incomplete not having just an epilogue detailing the day that the era truly ended.
Much like "The Devil in the White City", this book tries to tie several disparate topics together in somewhat unnatural ways, but overall the reader is able to follow and the stories flow well. I'm not a Yankees fan, but I was able to generate interest in the Reggie Jackson Billy Martin conflict that was a highlight, and microcosm, of the Yankees and New York in 1977.
Finally we had the story of the surprise win of Ed Koch in the mayoral election over Mario Cuomo. Koch is always an interesting figure, and more could've been spent on this and on Koch for my part, although he was just developing as a character in those days. And who other than a New Yorker would've remembered that Bella Abzug was a major player in those days. New York is definitely a different town than it was in 1977. I know it's a city, but it's also a hell of a town.