The City?s End: Two Centuries of Fantasies, Fears, and Premonitions of New York’s Destruction

By MAX PAGE

In the seven years since 9/11, New York has been treated to periodic threats from a wide assortment of pious lunatics, promising death and destruction to Gotham equal to 100 World Trade Centers. In City?s End, Max Page beats them all walking away: chapter after chapter, the reader watches a city reduced to rubble magically regenerate itself with the turning of the page, only to be smashed to pieces again on the next — though the devastation is usually confined to Manhattan between the Battery and 59th St., few artists or directors having troubled themselves to imagine the effect of an ultimate ruction in, say, Park Slope, Brooklyn. The book records nearly instance of New York in ruins from film, radio, television, and fiction of the last two centuries. The authors of catastrophe range form Stephen Vincent Benét to Steven Spielberg, and their agents include — but are not limited to — fire, water, Germans, something called a wolven, Gene Hackman, and the moon. It?s an extraordinary Domesday book of doomsdays, even if there?s little methodology to its madness; this is a flat-out catalogue, illustrated throughout with prolapsed Statues of Liberty (seven in all) and ravaged Wall Streets (three), but Page doesn?t sort through the wreckage long enough to find much meaning. What he does do, however, is commendable: like I. N. Phelps-Stokes? Iconography of New York in reverse, City?s End is the definitive chronicle of New York?s unmaking.