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Twenty Minutes in Manhattan by Michael…
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Twenty Minutes in Manhattan

by Michael Sorkin

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To fully enjoy this book, do you have to live along the walk Michael Sorkin uses as the basis for free-ranging meditations about urban life and community, and it's perpetual struggle with real-estate developers? Although I do, I don't think it's necessary: Twenty Minutes in Manhattan ranges over all of NYC and adduces examples from other cities in the U.S. and abroad, describing and analyzing in an attractive flowing prose the signs indicating the rise and fall of urban neighborhoods, and the perpetual struggle to keep them home to a reasonably wide range of people, not solely the wealthy in good times and the poor in bad.

What is known as gentrification is seen as prelude to the fall of true neighborhoods. The homogenization of shops and apartments to suit the tastes of the rich and usually some of the famous, requiring intensive renovation and steeply increased rents or selling prices, drive away all the residents and merchants who made a neighborhood interesting in the first place. Greenwich Village, where Sorkin has lived for decades, has virtually none of the artists and writers that made it so attractive in the first half of the 20th century, and the surrounding areas are seeing grocery, book, and a variety of other useful shops now selling expensive shoes, designer handbags, and jewelry. On the street are no longer one's neighbors, but tourists from other parts of the city and the country and foreign lands, drawn to look at all the upscale merchandise as well as the people shopping for it.

Although much hard information is conveyed here, it's done in such an organized and easy way that it seems like more a diary of an architect and urban planner's ideas as they evolve. This is the first of his books I've read, having just heard of him a few days before acquiring Twenty Minutes in Manhattan. As a fan of both NYC and urban studies in general – I do believe cities can save the earth – I was pretty sure I'd like Sorkin, but Twenty Minutes in Manhattan surpassed my expectations.

So, despite the rather steep prices of his work even in paperback, it won't be my last Michael Sorkin book. Twenty Minutes in Manhattan is a an excellent, and inexpensive, introduction to the man and his ideas.
  V.V.Harding | Apr 21, 2015 |
An absorbing reverie on the nature of cities. ( )
  dazzyj | Jan 25, 2014 |
This is a well written book about observing and living in Manhattan, particularly in Greenwich Village. Sorkin leads through what it is like to live in a New York neihborhood, and how it got that way. He looks at urban design and architecture. It is a both an insider's appreciation, but he takes some distance to lay out what he sees when he walks around. So, this is a nice balance. ( )
  vpfluke | Aug 22, 2012 |
This book has some interesting minutiae on the history and current structural organization of Greenwich Village in Manhattan, but I didn't like the tone of the book at all. The language is pretentious and clunky, and it left me with the impression that the writer is not a very pleasant person to be around. ( )
  Edith1 | Jun 19, 2010 |
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Contents: The stairs -- The stoop -- The block -- Washington Square -- LaGuardia Place -- Soho -- Canal Street -- Tribeca -- 145 Hudson Street -- Alternate routes -- Esprit d'Escalier.
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Describes a walk from Greenwich Village to Tribeca, about urban life in New York City, written by an acclaimed architect and architectural critic.

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