SUBWAY LIVES

24 HOURS IN THE LIFE OF THE NEW YORK CITY SUBWAY

A New York Newsday columnist with a novelist's eye and fine sense of pacing explores the world of the N.Y.C. subway—in a timely account that is not only about the city's transit system but also about its people and its soul. Dwyer spent four years reporting on the subway system for New York Newsday, and his dogged hands-on experience shows. Here, he follows a handful of typical New Yorkers—including a train conductor, a pregnant mother, a token clerk, graffiti artists, and Transit Authority president David Gunn—through one composite day on the subway. But their lives form only the loosest of frameworks; between snippet descriptions of their day, Dwyer dexterously weaves in fascinating accounts of the subway's (and the city's) history and mythology. He writes of turnstile sucking and token-booth robberies, of botched city-government transactions and a birth on a train, of entrapment in a darkened tunnel and relentless graffiti wars between a Hispanic ``graffiti posse'' and a rich white kid from the Upper West Side. His descriptions bring the teeming, untamed transit system into sharp, palpable focus (``Everything about the cars is colossal...800,000 pounds of metal and plastic and another quarter million of flesh and blood, the greatest moving mass of human tissue in the universe, apart from the planet earth'') and offer heaps of startling details: today's subways carry only half the number of riders they did after WW II; 90 tons of garbage are pulled from the subways daily. Underneath it all, too, is a strong, stirring sense of the pride and frustration, hope and despair that go along with being a New Yorker. A first-rate study that reaches far beyond its ostensible subject to give a textured, gritty profile of New York past and present.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-517-58445-X

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1991

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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DEAR MR. HENSHAW

Possibly inspired by the letters Cleary has received as a children's author, this begins with second-grader Leigh Botts' misspelled fan letter to Mr. Henshaw, whose fictitious book itself derives from the old take-off title Forty Ways W. Amuse a Dog. Soon Leigh is in sixth grade and bombarding his still-favorite author with a list of questions to be answered and returned by "next Friday," the day his author report is due. Leigh is disgruntled when Mr. Henshaw's answer comes late, and accompanied by a set of questions for Leigh to answer. He threatens not to, but as "Mom keeps nagging me about your dumb old questions" he finally gets the job done—and through his answers Mr. Henshaw and readers learn that Leigh considers himself "the mediumest boy in school," that his parents have split up, and that he dreams of his truck-driver dad driving him to school "hauling a forty-foot reefer, which would make his outfit add up to eighteen wheels altogether. . . . I guess I wouldn't seem so medium then." Soon Mr. Henshaw recommends keeping a diary (at least partly to get Leigh off his own back) and so the real letters to Mr. Henshaw taper off, with "pretend," unmailed letters (the diary) taking over. . . until Leigh can write "I don't have to pretend to write to Mr. Henshaw anymore. I have learned to say what I think on a piece of paper." Meanwhile Mr. Henshaw offers writing tips, and Leigh, struggling with a story for a school contest, concludes "I think you're right. Maybe I am not ready to write a story." Instead he writes a "true story" about a truck haul with his father in Leigh's real past, and this wins praise from "a real live author" Leigh meets through the school program. Mr. Henshaw has also advised that "a character in a story should solve a problem or change in some way," a standard juvenile-fiction dictum which Cleary herself applies modestly by having Leigh solve his disappearing lunch problem with a burglar-alarmed lunch box—and, more seriously, come to recognize and accept that his father can't be counted on. All of this, in Leigh's simple words, is capably and unobtrusively structured as well as valid and realistic. From the writing tips to the divorced-kid blues, however, it tends to substitute prevailing wisdom for the little jolts of recognition that made the Ramona books so rewarding.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 1983

ISBN: 143511096X

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1983

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