1/31/2006

Woe is Moi...

I love the French. Celebrity rock-star intellectual Bernard-Henri Lévy (BHL for short...sounds like a delivery service, like he's going somewhere, really fast!) visited Buffalo recently and had a few things to say about the Queen City. Below is an excerpt from an Atlantic Montly article which appeared last May. I've archived it, over here. That article is also the basis for his recently released book, American Vertigo where he retraces Tocqueville's steps as he races around the country with his French driver.

And here's what BHL had to say about Buffalo, NY....
http://images.salon.com/books/int/2006/01/23/levy/story.jpg
They Shoot Cities, Don't They?

That a city could die: for a European, that is unthinkable. And yet … Buffalo, a city that was once the glory of America, its showcase, where two presidents once lived (and where one was shot and another inaugurated), a city that on this late-July afternoon — the anniversary, by the way, of Tocqueville's visit, in 1831 — offers a landscape of desolation: long avenues without cars, stretching out to infinity; not one good restaurant to dine in; few hotels; fake gardens in place of buildings; deserted lots in place of gardens; trees that are dead or diseased; boarded-up office buildings, disintegrating or about to be torn down. Yes, a city where you can still find some of the finest specimens of urban architecture in America and some of the earliest skyscrapers, is now reduced to destroying them, because an unoccupied building is a building that is breaking apart and, one day or another, will fall on your head. The library is on the verge of financial collapse. There are streets that seem not to have any running water or mail delivery. Even the main train station, which during the era of the steelworks was a major hub, is now only a shell, an enormous abandoned sugarloaf, with rusted metal signs, wind howling, crows flying around it, and, in big letters, THE NEW YORK CENTRAL, RAILROAD, already half effaced.
A recent review of his American Vertigo revealed something about his journalistic style...
“The trip was under three shadows,” BHL explains. “The shadow of the war in Iraq, the shadow of an election, and the shadow of Katrina,” although the hurricane hadn’t struck at the time he wrote the book. “The anti-ci-pated shadow of Katrina, as you see. I was in New Orleans four or five months before Katrina, and I more or less foresee what is going to happen.”
This review of American Vertigo by Garrison Keillor in Sunday's New York Times, archived copy - if you're not a subscriber. Let's just say it was good that I wasn't drinking milk when I read that review. Keillor is a blast...I wonder if BHL ever ended up on Elmwood Avenue or maybe in total Jayson Blair mode, looked at my blog a few times saw all the pictures of abandonment, decay and vacancy and simply passed Buffalo by. Will we ever know? Do we care?

Love the French. I still do.

Here's Part-II "More Moi" ---- with podcasts and additional reviews...
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Artspace ArchiveAnnals of NeglectBAVPAWhere is Perrysburg?Broken Promises...
Writing the CityWoodlawn Row HousesTour dé Neglect - 2006

1 comment:

jennimi said...

ok who let this guy visit without checking out Elmwood or Allentown???? and back then Kuni's was still open. must have been downtown on a Sunday. alas....

great story, thanks for posting!