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Subway City: Riding the Trains, Reading New York
Michael W. Brooks
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Date Listed:
2010-06-21 18:07:14
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Subway City

Riding the Trains, Reading New York

By Michael W. Brooks.

Cloth with dust jacket, 295 pages, 7x10, 82 b/w illustrations.

"None of the world's great cities is as closely identified with its subway as New York. Its trains provide much more than just rapid transit. They give New Yorkers a powerful symbol of their metropolis, one that they use to express both their hopes and their fears for the urban future.

"Subway City explores New York's transit system as both fact and metaphor. Brooks traces the development of the subway from its inception as the newest and most efficient public transportation system to its decline as an overcrowded and dangerous part of city life. The crowded cars gave Harold Lloyd material for comedy, fueled William Randolph Hearst's crusade against the Traction Trust, and convinced Lewis Mumford that the subway was a futile effort to solve the city's problems. Brooks explores films which have dramatized the dangers lurking below ground, and examines the infamous Bernhard Goetz shooting that made the subway a symbol of urban decay. More hopefully, he describes the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's station improvements and ambitious programs for Music Underground, Poetry in Transit, and Arts-in-Transit, as keys to the city's renewal.

"Brooks probes the image of the subway in the work of such artistic and literary figures as Reginald Marsh, John Dos Passos, Hart Crane, Walker Evans, Tom Wolfe, Saul Bellow, Red Grooms, and Keith Haring. He uses the work of Isabel Bishop, Betty Smith, Minna Citron, and Donna Dennis to show how women have experienced the subway. And he shows how Langston Hughes, Ann Petry, James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison, and LeRoi Jones have used the subway to explore the city's racial tensions."

"Michael Brooks, a professor of English at West Chester University, has published a book on John Ruskin and Victorian Architecture (Rutgers University Press)."


o Copiously illustrated text surveys all aspects-political, technological, and representational-of the subject.

o Examines the subway in journalism, poetry, painting, and novels.

o Race, gender, and class issues are thoroughly covered.

Subway City is a vital addition to the history and poetry of New York."-Garrison Keillor