Because he hasn’t forgotten the deindustrialized, dope-dealing, pornographic seventies—when the professor had to escort his female students to the subway after class—Berman is “suspicious of the discourse of nostalgia, including my own.” So he may not like the gigantic new termite mounds for Disney, Bertelsmann, Condé Nast, Reuters, and Viacom, but the Square survived Giuliani, and he finds today’s “exploding lights and multicultural crowds as hot and sexy as any I’ve ever known . . . maybe, if we can get people to feel good and dirty again, they will see what a terrific somewhere they’re in.”
Yes, his deep reading of the sailor in Sex and the City reminds me that some of the essays he has written, often for magazines I edited, made certain cultural artifacts sound more interesting than they really were. But this is just Berman reading himself, and he’s deeper than most texts. The fact is, I can no longer see Times Square on my own. I am looking at some splendid magical-realist Macondo from inside the head of a man with kaleidoscope eyes.