Synopses & Reviews
Described as “a continuous carnival” and “the crossroads of the world,” Times Square is a singular phenomenon: the spot where imagination and veracity intersect. To esteemed scholar and author Marshall Berman, it is also the flashing, teeming, and strangely beautiful nexus of his life. In this remarkable book, Berman takes us on a thrilling illustrated tour of Times Square, revealing a landscape both mythic and real. On the Town is a unique look through the lens of the ideas and works of art that inspired–or were inspired by–this landmarks allure.
Times Square pulses with life, drawing countless millions who long to be surrounded by too many in the midst of too much. Beyond the immense crowds, the intoxicating lights, the imposing architecture, and even the recent incursion of corporate headquarters that limn the Squares present boundaries, there is an indefatigable humanity (and undeniable sexual tension) that, for more than a century, has nourished creative expression.
Interleafing his own recollections with astute social commentary, Berman reveals how movies, graphic arts, literature, popular music, television, and, of course, the Broadway theater have reflected Times Squares voluminous light to illuminate a vast spectrum of themes and vignettes. Berman shows us Times Square as it is seen in Alfred Eisenstadts iconic photography, the movies of Busby Berkeley, John Schlesinger, and Martin Scorsese, and the stage choreography of Jerome Robbins.
Conversely, we see how Times Squares distinctive aura finds its source in a stunningly diverse list of performers, writers, and impresarios, including Theodore Dreiser, Florenz Ziegfeld, Ethel Merman, Al Jolson, Bob Dylan, and Bruce Springsteen. Berman also celebrates the unsung heroes of Times Square–the artists, engineers, and hucksters behind the Squares landmark signs that, throughout the decades, re-created raging waterfalls, blew smoke rings, bathed onlookers in the Squares eerily welcoming light, and projected the image of what Americans want to be against a surface of who we really are.
Part love letter, part revelatory semiotic exposition of a place known to all, On the Town is a nonstop excursion to the heart of American civilization, written by one of our keenest, most entertaining cultural observers.
About the Author
Marshall Berman is Distinguished Professor of Political Science at City College of New York and CCNY Graduate Center, where he teaches political theory and urban studies. He writes frequently for The Nation and The Village Voice, and serves on the editorial board of Dissent. He is the author of The Politics of Authenticity: Radical Individualism and the Emergence of Modern Society and All That Is Sold Melts into Air: The Experience of Modernity.