In 1945, New York City stood at the pinnacle of its cultural and economic power. Never again would the city possess the unique mixture of innocence and sophistication, romance and formality, generosity and confidence which characterized it in this moment of triumph. In Manhattan '45, acclaimed travel writer and historian Jan Morris evokes the city in all its romantic grandeur. From its beguilingly idiosyncratic architectural style to its unmistakable slang, post-war New York springs to life through Morris's brisk, affectionate prose. Morris visits Wall Street, Harlem, Greenwich Village, Chinatown, and the Lower East Side. She rides the trollies, the El, the Hudson River ferries, and the Twentieth Century Limited. She dines at Schrafft's and Le Pavilion, drinks ale at McSorley's Saloon, sips Manhattans at the Manhattan Club, and spots celebrities at El Morocco. She meets Fiorello La Guardia, Robert Moses, Leo Durocher, I. B. Singer, and Dizzy Gillespie. And she tours the tenements of Hell's Kitchen and the Gashouse district, as well as the Foundling Hospital where the crushing realities of poverty belie the unchallenged exuberance of the age. Taking into account both Social Register and slum, Manhattan '45 celebrates New York's Golden Age as a place where, for one unrepeatable moment in history, anything seemed possible.
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What Reviewers Are Saying
A valentine to New York City, all hearts and lace, from a European who has visited often and culled information from various sources - including her imagination. Morris would like us to read her work "not as hard truth exactly, but as an exercise in affectionate and light-hearted imagination. . ." To Morris, postwar New York was "as truly romantic a city as Venice itself." It was a place where you could read the day's New York Times' headlines on the paper's Motogram in Times Square, the smoke rings blew from file mouth of the gigantic Camel man on the billboard nearby, elevators still needed operators to take people up and down, Mayor La Guardia read the comics on the radio when the newspaper truck drivers went on strike, CBS's early TV studios were in Grand Central Terminal, you could ride the last of the trolley cars to work, subway rides cost a nickel, pretty young women were voted "Miss Subways," and "The Glass Menagerie" bowed. Lovers of New York trivia will find a satisfying nugget or two: It was La Guardia's idea to rename Sixth Avenue the Avenue of the Americas - an idea New Yorkers have ignored to this day; the famous Russian Tea Room was actually founded by a Pole. There was, as today, a problem with drugs and political corruption but there was also a certain innocence. Graffiti on one wall read, "Nuts to all the boys on 2nd Avenue - except 68th & 69th streets." Although the writing tends toward the flowery, it will appeal to those who prefer sentimental travels through time. (Kirkus Reviews)