Page 20 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 41

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
freeing women from domesticity and allowing them the possibil­
ity o f discovering the ir rights, as social, political, cultural, and sex­
ual agents.
Rather than depend ing upon the qualities o f
the polis,
the epic
possibilities o f Bellow’s Chicago, celebrated in novels tha t have an
epic sweep and intensity, derive from the ju n c tu re o f five
elements, as G un ther Barth has recently made clear. T he modern
city provided a transpo rta tion system for its population, ap a r t­
ments for them to live in, depa r tm en t stores fo r them to shop in,
sports like baseball by which to learn the rules o f competition as
well as providing a focal point for u rban loyalties, and a commu­
nications network — especially newspapers — to link people and
place.10
It is no accident tha t Dean Corde presides over a school o f jo u r ­
nalism. It is additionally instructive to realize tha t his stories o f
Chicago corrup tion are not published in any one o f the newspa­
pers o f his home town bu t in a national monthly magazine. For
the crucial function o f newspapers in shaping a city and prov id­
ing it with a focus has disappeared . Dean Corde knows tha t news­
papers no longer bring the news o f the new world o f the ir city to
its inhabitants. Rather, the city has expanded into the world and
sh runk to the shopping center. The global dimension finds more
vivid expression on television news as it overwhelms the city.
U rban life is no longer central. It has become the background
against which the mythic dram a o f superpowers emerges.
EXPANDED HORIZONS
Nowadays the mythic spaces o f diversity are not the d iffe ren t
neighborhoods o f the city, which encoun te r each o the r in the con­
frontations o f the ir representatives in certain public places.
Rather, like Corde’s experiences, the encoun te rs tha t ma tter take
place in airplanes and a irpo r t lounges, among flight companions
ra th e r than earthly neighbors.
The Deans December
ends with a
meditation on intergalactic space b rough t on by a visit to the
astronomical observatory at Mount Palomar. Dean Corde does
not emphasize the ways in which the universe is rush ing apa r t
from its center — yet tha t too is part o f the m ode rn condition, by
contrast with the focused urban experience o f ou r recen t past.
10 Gunther Barth,
City People. The Rise ofModern City Culture in Nineteenth Century
America,
New York: Oxford, 1980; see chapter 1 for a succinct statement of
his argument.