FIREHOUSE by Bernard Wolf


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The hazards of big-city firefighting, and sidelights on firehouse life, documented with tabloid directness and a few nice sentimental touches--in what may, however, be a self-defeating format. What we have, in a horizontal, picture-book presentation, is a magazine-level text (vocabulary, sentence-structure, concepts) that goes on for 80 pp. without any internal breaks--shifting back and forth from the firemen of Engine Company 33 and Ladder Company 9 (on New York's Lower East Side), and the fires they fight. The fluidity, and the unmarked transitions, do of course call TV to mind; and apart from Wolf's spectacular, edgy shots of night firefighting, there are poignant bits (like two of the men dancing on Christmas Eve) that could come out of Paddy Chayefsky. There are also some pretty grown-up references--to arson at a synagogue (which isn't explained), as well as arson in general: Wolf wants to put across not only the techniques of firefighting, the skills, stamina, and sheer brawn called for, and the special closeness the men develop (one really can't quite imagine a woman here)--but also the problems of operating in a socially-conflicted neighborhood. Because there's much to admire in the way he pursues all these ends, the book is certainly worth a go; but even the title, Firehouse, is a misleading generalized tag for what is really a young, pictorial equivalent of Dennis Smith's Report from Engine Co. 82.

Pub Date: Aug. 22nd, 1983
Publisher: Morrow