Subjective Ramblings and Peripheral Thoughts from the Edges of a Comics Studies Project
Architectural critic Michael Sorkin‘s All Over the Map: Writing on Buildings and Cities is a collection of writings from the period 2000-2010. Most of the pieces have appeared in print elsewhere earlier, particularly in the Architectural Record. But for those of us who do not subscribe to that publication, this Verso edition is not far short of a godsend. The book is at times rip-roaringly funny, at other times abysmally saddening, often acerbically pointed (not fully Menckenesque, but it definitely packs a punch), and, in general, lucidly critical.
While the book is never boring (ok, perhaps on an extremely rare occasion or two, when Sorkin ventures into purely inter-architectural territory), perhaps the most interesting thread is the one dealing with the events of September 11, 2001. All Over the Map reprints columns and articles that give excellent and accessible record of the immediate aftermath of the attack on the World Trade Center, the debate about what was to be done with the site where the towers had stood, the fading of commemoration and democracy into the shadow of commercial consideration, and the emergence of the post-9/11 climate of fear. It is sobering to see the world of today emerge on the page, in texts written as it was happening.
All Over the Map‘s subject matter has a global range, but Sorkin focuses on New York more often than on any other place. Because of this, the book is particularly useful for anyone interested in how the city appears in representation. While the linkage is rarely direct, Sorkin’s meditations on social justice and inequality, on gentrification and market forces, on community and capital provide useful background noise (and I use this term in a completely non-pejorative sense) for the study of the city ‘s representation, providing a perspective to match the ideological and socio-cultural background noise that inevitably informed the imaginative mapping of the city in the period in which the writings collected were conceived.