On the Town
One Hundred Years of Spectacle in Times Square
By Marshall Berman
(Verso, Paperback, 9781844673971, 264pp.)
Publication Date: September 7, 2009
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Described as ‘a continuous carnival’ and ‘the crossroads of the world,’ Times Square is a singular phenomenon: the spot where imagination and veracity intersect. To Marshall Berman, it is also the flashing, teeming, and strangely beautiful nexus of his life. In this remarkable book, Berman takes us on a thrilling illustrated tour of Times Square, revealing a landscape both mythic and real. Interleafing his own recollections with social commentary, he reveals how movies, graphic arts, literature, popular music, television, and, of course, the Broadway theater have reflected Times Square’s voluminous light to illuminate a vast spectrum of themes and vignettes. Part love letter, part revelatory semiotic exposition of a place known to all, On the Town is a nonstop excursion to the heart of American civilization, written by one of our keenest, most entertaining cultural observers.
Marshall Berman is Distinguished Professor of Political Science at City College of New York and CCNY Graduate Center, where he teaches political theory and urban studies. He writes frequently for The Nation and The Village Voice, and serves on the editorial board of Dissent. He is the author of The Politics of Authenticity; All That Is Solid Melts into Air; and On the Town.
“Berman’s latest—and perhaps best—book chronicles the storied incandescence of Times Square ... Brilliant indeed.”—Booklist, Starred Review
“Like the square itself, the choreographer of this neon Leaves of Grass is a hybrid of styles and genres, of page, stage, screen, and jazz. He is up in the air, like Ruby Keeler on top of a taxi. He is dancing in the street, with Martha and the Vandellas. A Pied Piper, Johnny Appleseed, and Sergeant Pepper, he leads us into movie houses, libraries, juke joints, temptation, and transcendence ... the fact is, I can no longer see Times Square on my own. I am looking at some splendid magical-realist Macondo from inside the head of a man with kaleidoscope eyes.”—John Leonard, New York Magazine