PRINT May 1990


American Myths

RETRACT OUR NUCLEAR UMBRELLA and the U.S.A. stands revealed as a gadget-addicted, debt-ridden purveyor of guns, movies, and cigarettes—the stuff that dreams ore mode of, or stardom. Nobody wants U.S. steel, but a billion people watch the Oscar telecast. Our icons still emblazon the world’s T-shirts: Marilyn, Elvis, Rambo . . . New York?

Cultural capital shifts at the end of a war, and in the aftermath of the big cold one, one might well wonder whether New York is still that undisputed “world city” Le Corbusier detected in the late 1930s. Certainly the mysterious boom that followed the economic collapse of 1975 (a boom during which even the infinitely recalcitrant Lower East Side was scarred by gentrification) is long since over, having ended with the 1987 stock market crash. That this one-dimensional revival had lost the capacity to merchandize itself was reinforced by the abject failure

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