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SUBWAY LIVES by Jim Dwyer

SUBWAY LIVES

24 Hours in the Life of the New York City Subway

By Jim Dwyer

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1991
ISBN: 0-517-58445-X
Publisher: Crown

 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.