cover image Crosstown Sabbath: A Street Journey Through History

Crosstown Sabbath: A Street Journey Through History

Frederic Morton. Grove/Atlantic, $0 (153pp) ISBN 978-0-394-56070-0

From the unique vantage point of a passenger on a No. 18 crosstown bus, bound from the Upper West Side to the Upper East Side of Manhattan on a Saturday afternoon, Morton (The Rothschilds, A Nervous Splendor develops a seminal, elegant critique of the Judeo-Christian ""payoff-obsessed'' work ethic``drab toiling now for the sake of drab gorging later.'' If this elegiac essay idealizes the spontaneity and comradery of paleolithic hunters and goes too far in linking the ``archstriver'' Cain to contemporary greenhorns (readers can only ponder the acerbic indictment that would have emerged from a subway ride), this urban Ecclesiastes acknowledges that he is ``a helpless, shameless, rabid, rapturous nostalgic.'' With keen descriptions of mundanities (the beast of a bus ``chokes out diesel coughs while squatting on four splayed-out wheels''), this stinging satire will strike an immediate chord with New Yorkers but should give pause to progress junkies everywhere, addicted to and betrayed by ``the endless Hebrew chore of advancement and perfection.'' (June 29)