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In the old Front Page Days, reporters posed as convicts to get the goods sadistic guards or wardens; now such masquerades, if they exist at all, are turned toward less flamboyant ends, and thus we have Edgar May undertaking a six month stint as a fake-caseworker up in Buffalo, N.Y. Eventually the playacting ended and the social commitment began: May interviewed scads of welfare and public officials, and tape recorded the fears and frustrations of thousands of ""wasted Americans"" meandering in metropolitan slums, principally those of Manhattan and Chicago. Though his labors are hardly definitive- some of the material is journalistically familiar or sociologically flimsy- still the book's directness and tough-minded impact clarifies to a considerable degree the confusions and bureaucratic claustrophobia surrounding the relief rolls dilemma. It presents, for instance, an excellent debunking and diagnosis of the Newburgh Revolt; sad studies of unwed mothers, drop-outs, ""Senior Citizens"" and minority groups. Finally, it plumps for some sort of planned parenthood and some sort of federal action to tackle the turnovers in welfare personnel and the loose leadership inherent in much of the structure. It talks intelligently about taxes. As a call for reappraisal and a realization that dangerously dark pockets of poverty exist in our Affluent Age and are spreading, it deserves to be read.

Pub Date: Feb. 11th, 1963
Publisher: Harper & Row