LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, THE BRONX IS BURNING: 1977, Baseball, Politics, and the Battle for the Soul of a City

Jonathan Mahler, Author
Jonathan Mahler, Author . Farrar, Straus & Giroux $25 (368p) ISBN 978-0-374-17528-3
Paperback - 356 pages - 978-0-312-42430-5
Open Ebook - 368 pages - 978-1-4299-3103-8
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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. Agent, Sarah Chalfant. (Apr.)

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