THE GOOD CITY: Writers Explore 21st-Century Boston

Emily Hiestand, Editor, Ande Zellman, Editor . Beacon $14 (175p) ISBN 978-0-8070-7143-4

This slim volume of essays is the literary equivalent of meandering down Boston's crooked streets. Wander this way to relax beneath the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum's "glass-roofed courtyard." Head that way to discover "a hive of innovation," where telegraphs were perfected, the telephone invented and general anesthesia first used. Saunter into the Frederick Olmstead–designed Emerald Necklace series of parks to enjoy "trees and shrubs, interwoven with meadows, community gardens, ponds and streams, and freshwater marshes in the midst of an urban setting." Of course, the city's ugly side is also here: busing riots and racism, gentrification and urban renewal, corrupt politics and a perennial also-ran baseball team. Hiestand (The Very Rich Hours ) and Zellman (formerly of the Boston Globe ) selected essays highlighting different facets of the Hub, such as Lynda Morgenroth's exploration of neighborhoods, John Hanson Mitchell's historical look at the Shawmut Peninsula and Irene Smalls's critique of what the city offers children. While those familiar with Boston will gain the most from this collection, these essays are larger than just one city. Curator Alan Chong's look at the Gardner Museum sheds light on private museums nationwide. Southie Michael Patrick McDonald rails against the "liberals" taking over his neighborhood, questioning gentrification even as he himself perpetuates it. The vibrancy and complexity of Boston shine through this work. (Sept.)

Reviewed on: 06/14/2004
Release date: 09/01/2004
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