April 11, 2005 at 04:00 AM EDT

Ladies and Gentleman, The Bronx is Burning

Current Status
In Season
Jonathan Mahler
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Historical Fiction, Nonfiction
We gave it a C+

Credit Jonathan Mahler for re-creating New York City’s annus horribilis/mirabilis, 1977, in an expansion of his New York Times Magazine cover stories on that year’s long, hot summer called Ladies and Gentlemen, The Bronx is Burning. But first, you have to wade through a series of biographical digressions researched and rendered in the manner of a term paper. Because Mahler was an 8-year-old Californian in 1977, he relies on other sources, leaving us New Yorkers there at the time free to carp over the mistakes (Bernie Tebbets was actually named Birdie) and misconceptions (the streets outside One Fifth Avenue were hardly ”dirty” and ”deserted”). Some of the accounts, especially of the blackout and subsequent looting of Bushwick, are riveting, but he ultimately fails to make the case that Reggie Jackson saved the city by leading the Yankees to a World Series victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers.

You May Like