The follow-up to Wallace's Pulitzer Prize-winning history of New York, chronicling the swings of prosperity and downturn, from the 1898 skyscraper-driven boom to the Bankers' Panic of 1907, the labor upheaval, and violent repression during and after the First World War.
Early-twentieth-century American society was on the verge of a reshuffling of values and power relations in which the rich would come out just fine. And New York City was where that new synthesis would be worked out, in all its messy and contradictory details. Mike Wallace knows this. In fact he knows nearly everything worth knowing about New York during the years leading up to World War I...Wallace packs these and a multitude of other fascinating details into his enormous book, Greater Gotham, which somehow remains astonishingly readable. But he also gets the big picture right—the balance of cultural tensions, the centrifugal exuberance vs. the new forms of power and control … One could not ask for a more thorough or thoughtful guide to the emergence of New York as the Empire City.
Wallace's fabulous new work of encyclopedic nonfiction gives readers delightful glimpses of madness, feigned or otherwise, along with other kaleidoscopic aspects of turn-of-the-last-century New York ... Dip your bucket anywhere and you will find something engaging. Every reader will have their favorite passages. Mine ran the gamut, each one making me want to go find a friend and share ... It is this combination of the scholarly and the pop that makes it such a compelling read. The average reader will find herself eager to pick up the book — and not just for bicep curls.
[Wallace] tells the story of those two decades with encyclopedic sweep and granular detail, but with enough verve and wry humor to make this doorstopper immensely readable. Even weathered aficionados of city lore will find moments of revelation. Newcomers will be fascinated by how it all came to be. What makes the book so entertaining is that it is not a conventional chronicle of how government leaders handled that era’s crises. Rather the book is as much a social and cultural history as it is a political narrative ... My one major quibble is TMI: too much information. The book’s volume of detailed material at moments makes it like the whaling chapters in Moby-Dick, possibly trying some readers’ patience. Do we need a hundred crowded pages on the stories of a dozen strikes? A little bit of Wallace’s own consolidation would have made for a less draining reading experience ... New York has always been a work in progress. But the particular years recounted in this essential, absorbing and mostly sprightly history went a long way in shaping the pulsating city we know.