Peter Berman, Author . Univ. of Chicago $25 (288p) ISBN 978-0-226-03970-1

Ever wonder what lurks in the hearts and minds of those stoic, unflappable, dapperly uniformed men (yes, they're nearly always men) who man the doors of your city's apartment buildings? Provoked by his own awkward interaction with his friend's doorman, Bearman, a sociologist at Columbia University, embarked on this exhaustive study of New York City doormen and the often complex dynamics between them and their buildings' tenants. Though any urban dweller will find something of interest, this isn't really a layman's book, and Bearman's prosaic handling dries out a potentially fruitful subject. He tends to spend too much time examining the obvious questions (e.g., why do doormen find their jobs at once "boring and stressful"?), while barely touching upon others that seem deeper and more fertile, such as the ways in which tenants tend to see their doormen as "socially dead." Because Bearman refuses for the most part to engage in any real cultural observations beyond some obvious extrapolations from his data, much of the meat of the book resides in the many short interviews with doormen speaking their (normally unspoken) minds. But what they reveal is well worth the price of admission. (Oct.)

Reviewed on: 08/29/2005
Release date: 10/01/2005
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