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A Prayer for the City Paperback – December 29, 1998
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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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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. Bissinger describes Rendell's interaction with the policeman's family, as well as his palpable anger that a patrolman could be so senselessly cut down in the line of duty. In moving language, Bissinger shows the depth of the problem confronting Rendell and Cohen.
In addition to the generic problems besetting Philadelphia, Bissinger also details those specific to Pennsylvania's largest city. Throughout the book, Bissinger writes of Rendell's and Cohen's attempts to save the Philadelphia Naval Ship Yard from closure by the U.S. Department of the Navy. The story of the struggle for the shipyard, which means the difference between Philadelphia losing or keeping thousands of crucial jobs, provides a penetrating insight into how the municipal and federal governments often move in disparate directions, and how that can have staggering consequences for the local level.
Bissinger's tone in this book is somber, without veering into the maudlin. The author provides great detail about urban problems, but not in a voyeuristic or exploitative way. Though he is clearly rooting for Rendell, Bissinger does not become fawning or mawkish. Indeed, Bissinger's reporting is impeccable, due no doubt to the wide-open access to Rendell he was clearly granted. Primarily, "A Prayer for the City" succeeds because Bissinger set out to tell a great story, and that essential goal is something that far too many journalistic treatments miss these days.
I would recommend this book to anyone whether Poli Sci major or not!