The City’s End


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Two Centuries of Fantasies, Fears, and Premonitions of New York’s Destruction

Max Page

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From nineteenth-century paintings of fires raging through New York City to scenes of Manhattan engulfed by a gigantic wave in the 1998 movie Deep Impact, images of the city’s end have been prolific and diverse. Why have Americans repeatedly imagined New York’s destruction? What do the fantasies of annihilation played out in virtually every form of literature and art mean? This book is the first to investigate two centuries of imagined cataclysms visited upon New York, and to provide a critical historical perspective to our understanding of the events of September 11, 2001.

Max Page examines the destruction fantasies created by American writers and imagemakers at various stages of New York’s development. Seen in every medium from newspapers and films to novels, paintings, and computer software, such images, though disturbing, have been continuously popular. Page demonstrates with vivid examples and illustrations how each era’s destruction genre has reflected the city’s economic, political, racial, or physical tensions, and he also shows how the images have become forces in their own right, shaping Americans’ perceptions of New York and of cities in general.

Max Page is professor of architecture and history, University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He is a 2003 Guggenheim Fellow and author of The Creative Destruction of Manhattan, which received the 2001 Spiro Kostof Award of the Society of Architectural Historians. He lives in Amherst.

"Can this be the end—gasp—of Gotham? For two centuries now, this question has been posed by the innumerable writers, artists, and film makers who have targeted New York for fictional destruction. The city has been bombed, burned, drowned, frozen, invaded by aliens and stomped by monsters—a harrowing and occasionally hilarious record of imagined carnage that Max Page masterfully recounts. Then came 9/11. The City's End, enlightening and entertaining, provides much food for thought."—Mike Wallace, co-author of Gotham

The City's End is a great Times Square of a book, an urban spectacle in its own right. Max Page, one of the most creative urbanists writing today, shows how our capacity to imagine New York’s destruction is actually a sign not only of the city’s inner strength, but of our own. Reading The City's End can help us all grow up.”—Marshall Berman, author of All That Is Solid Melts into Air

"Max Page's account of New York's pre- and post-9/11 disaster fears illuminates our deepest subliminal fantasies and provides unexpectedly profound observations about American culture and its love-hate relationship with city life."—Alexander Garvin, author of The American City: What Works, What Doesn't

"This is a dazzling book, highly original and with a distinctive voice. It has no competitor."—Clifton Hood, Hobart and William Smith Colleges

“Page provides a unique, well-researched, and insightful analysis of why so many authors, readers, and viewers have loved to destroy New York.”—Jonathan Soffer, Polytechnic University, Brooklyn

"An informative and provocative read."—Tama Starr, Wall Street Journal

"Erudite but lavishly illustrated."—Sam Roberts, New York Times

"The City's End explores the imaginative and often profitable ways that filmmakers, writers and artists have blown up, incinerated, drowned or depopulated New York City. Page is a lucid writer whose thesis is supported with reams of research. The book is worth getting for the illustrations alone. . . . Page thoughtfully analyzes why the city's ruination has been such an enduringly popular theme."—Ann Levin, Newsday

"Page is a lucid writer whose thesis is supported with reams of research.  The book is worth getting for the illustrations alone."—St. Croix Avis

"This is a carefully researched, artful, and insightful book that belongs on the shelf with other contemporary projects of urban historical exploration."—Nathaniel Popkin, The Pennsylvania Gazette
ISBN: 9780300110265
Publication Date: September 23, 2008
280 pages, 7 x 10
137 b/w + 24 color illus.