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Posted on September 29th, 2012, by

New York City has the largest population in the U.S. and is characterized by a history steeped both in the founding of the nation and in its embrace of diverse groups of immigrants.  The city is not a microcosm of the U.S., but for foreigners it symbolizes the country itself.   While many books are devoted to the history of this grand city, few focus on the second half of the 20th century, a turbulent epoch that changed the city dramatically.  New York Calling: From Blackout to Bloomberg, written by Marshall Berman and Brian Berger, is noteworthy because the book’s narrative of the city’s history from the 1970s is also illustrated in about 230 photographs, which are used as documentary evidence of the development of the city in these decades.

The authors convey the authentic atmosphere of New York, concentrating their attention on the 1970s 1980s, which were particularly significant as the city moved from segregated communities to one that is more of a melting pot, where representatives of different cultures and ethnic groups lived together.

The authors develop their ideas from the perspective of eyewitnesses of events during this time.  The various contributors have different views on the development of the city and they interpret the events and their effects in contrasting and unique ways.  As a result, the essays can vary from un-nostalgic, critical essays, such as the one written by Leonard Green to reviews such as the piece written by Richard Metze, where the author simply lists book titles to describe the development of literary culture in New York — which rather resembles a kind of official report than a true essay.

Though the book contains interesting eyewitness accounts, it lacks analysis and evaluation of this epoch.  Instead, readers have to decide on their own how to interpret the history of New York and the changes that occurred to the city over the last several decades. Berman and Berger, intentionally or not, distance themselves from expressing personal opinion.  This leaves the reader thinking more about the issues, but also wanting more from the authors.

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