Lizabeth Cohen’s new book, “Saving America’s Cities: Ed Logue and the Struggle to Renew Urban America in the Suburban Age” (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), is an attempt to salvage the villain’s reputation, mostly by putting it in the Tragedy of Good Intentions basket instead of the Arrogance of Élitist Certainties basket, albeit recognizing that these are adjacent baskets. Cohen, an American historian at Harvard, reminds the reader, as any first-rate historian would, that what look, in the retrospective cartooning of polemical history, like obvious choices and clear moral lessons are usually gradated and surprising. Logue, whose career was more far reaching and ambitious than that of any other urbanist of his time, helped remake New Haven, Boston, and New York, and his ambitions for city planning were thoroughly progressive: “To demonstrate that people of different incomes, races, and ethnic origins can live together . . . and that they can send their children to the same public schools.” Despite his reputation as a “slum-clearer,” Logue was uncompromising about the primacy of integration. “The pursuit of racial, not just income, diversity in residential projects animated all his work,” Cohen writes. (Jane Jacobs, to put it charitably, didn’t really notice that her beloved Hudson Street, in the West Village, tended toward the monochrome.)
I can’t recall whether music writers took issue with the accuracy or relevancy of Almost Famous when it was released in 2000, but I imagine they might’ve seen 1973 as “the good ol’ days” before everything got corporate. Sure, file-sharing and streaming had yet to fully decimate the music industry and print journalism was thriving in all genres, but publications had to play nice with teen pop, nu-metal, rap-rock, pop-punk, and Southern hip-hop, all modes of music that critics could casually disregard or outright mock in the past. Meanwhile, Almost Famous: The Musical premiered during the most brutal stretch in a year when “profoundly demoralizing” is the baseline for music journalism.
Lifting the lid from the thin gold box, I found my anniversary gift: a stack of papyrus-style paper on which my husband had printed the email correspondence of our early courtship.
Well, half of it. During the 90s, emails were not yet recorded in conversation threads; he’d been able to recover the emails he’d received from me, but not his responses.
As a joke, he added a title page, The “Best” of Dheepa. Back then, rather than “Love” or “Sincerely,” I closed my correspondence with the word “Best,” which I’d adopted from a college professor. I thought it was refined and sophisticated.
My husband thought it was ponderous and formal.
André Aciman’s 2007 breakthrough novel, Call Me By Your Name – later made into an award-winning film directed by Luca Guadagnino – told the story of a blossoming romance between 17-year-old Elio and 24-year-old Oliver. Exploring themes of passion, obsession and time, the book has since acquired the status of a modern gay classic.
In Find Me, Aciman returns to the lives of Elio and Oliver some 20 years later, albeit via a circuitous route: we have to wait until almost halfway through the novel for Elio’s first appearance, and are not reacquainted with Oliver until the penultimate section. But what Aciman offers us in the meantime is an intense and rewarding prelude.
Written before most of her other work that Stephen Snyder has translated into English, it shows her digging into many of the same concerns as her later work: art, loss, beauty, love, memory, caretaking, and old age. There are tropes and moments present that one might reasonably label “Orwellian,” but at its center The Memory Police is a story about what it means to be a writer and the impermanence of art, all masquerading as a dystopian fable.