City Play

Amanda Dargan, Author, Steven Zeitlin, With Rutgers University Press $30 (212p) ISBN 978-0-8135-1577-9
A paean to play by a husband-and-wife team of folklorists, this hodgepodge of facts, quotes, scholarship and stories traces New York City frolics from the Triassic period (origin of the brownstone) through the introduction of elevators, electric street lighting and automobiles. Although art historian Kirshenblatt-Gimblett's afterword reaches as far as India and Israel, Dargan and Zeitlin explore outdoor play mainly in the Big Apple, with hopscotches to Boston, Philadelphia and Indiana. Diaries and oral histories add sometimes hilarious, sometimes poignant perspectives; one woman describes ``digging to China'' in her Brooklyn backyard during a polio epidemic. Weak when it veers off into scholarly gobbledygook, this ``study'' of play is nevertheless well served by Dargan and Zeitlin's eclectic mix of sources, which include Nietzsche, Heidegger and Willie Sutton (whose childhood swimming lessons in the treacherous East River paid off later in life when he was trying to escape from prison). (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 10/01/1990
Release date: 09/01/1990
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