THE AIRTIGHT CAGE by Joseph P. Lyford


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Joseph Lyford, who wrote about small town life in The Talk in Vandalia applies his journalistic techniques to the Upper West Side of New York City, between Harlem and 86th Street, an area he has known as landlord-inhabitant as well as a professional journalist. He analyzes the population of a particular slum area at a time when it hit bottom and began to undergo great changes from urban renewal. The ""area"" is both a step-up and a stopping place for different groups, a dumping ground for the sick and hopeless. The author uses two representative blocks for intensive investigation. He visits the institutions that serve the area: the political clubs, the schools and churches (making some progress.) He weighs the health facilities, the performance of the police (determined by indifference rather than brutality). He reserves his main salvos for the government bureaucracy and ""what happens to the unaffiliated citizen at the hands of government agencies infiltrated with private interest and paralyzed by the weight of their own anatomy."" Mr. Lyford thinks that explosions are the likeliest form of effective action in obliterating the airtight cage, looks to new decentralized communities to relieve the despair of its inhabitants. He communicates his indignation at human loss, and while his book remains at a certain level of conception and concern, he has reached people who give a composite portrait of an important section of the city. Essentially of regional interest.

Publisher: Harper & Row