WATERFRONT: A Journey Around Manhattan
Unlike other great cities, as eminent essayist and New York devotee Lopate (Getting Personal ) observes, "Manhattan is almost pathologically averse to letting you wander to the river's edge and get close enough to touch the water." In this loose circumnavigation, first up the West Side from the Battery to Washington Heights and then up the East Side from South Street Seaport to Highbridge Park, he takes the reader up close on an information-packed journey—dipping, as the particular location suggests, into memoir, history, current events, marine biology, city planning, literature, architecture, interviews, biography, films, ecology and more. Anyone who relishes the company of Whitman, Melville, both Cranes, even Sara Teasdale, among many other celebrants of the New York waterfront, will particularly enjoy the vicarious sojourn. The trek includes Chelsea Piers and the U.N., Gracie Mansion and the Brooklyn Bridge, Captain Kidd and the Gulf filling station on East 23rd Street. "Sewage and salsa," Lopate invokes in describing Riverbank State Park, and that mix of the problematic and the delightful pervades his account, "saturated with history," of the waterfront's metamorphosis from "a working port, to an abandoned, seedy no-man's-land, to a highly desirable zone of parks plus upscale retail/residential." This is a demanding book—formidable in some of its detail, complex in its broad approach. Tourists will find it enriching but only borderline useful. Its ideal reader, a New Yorker who cares as deeply as Lopate does about the waterfront as "the key to New York's destiny," will find it compelling as well as entertaining. (Mar. 2)
Forecast: Blurbs from E.L. Doctorow, Cynthia Ozick, Ann Beattie and Jonathan Lethem, among other notables, will help ensure this reaches readers of literary nonfiction .