The City’s End Two Centuries of Fantasies, Fears, and Premonitions of New York’s Destruction Max Page

Publication date:
13 Jul 2010
Yale University Press
280 pages: 249 x 171mm
137 b-w + 24 color illus.
Sales territories:

Long before 9/11, visions of the destruction of New York City were a part of America’s collective imagination

From nineteenth-century paintings of fires raging through New York City to scenes of Manhattan engulfed by a gigantic wave in the 1998 movie Deep Impact, images of the city’s end have been prolific and diverse. Why have Americans repeatedly imagined New York’s destruction? What do the fantasies of annihilation played out in virtually every form of literature and art mean? This book is the first to investigate two centuries of imagined cataclysms visited upon New York, and to provide a critical historical perspective to our understanding of the events of September 11, 2001.

Max Page examines the destruction fantasies created by American writers and imagemakers at various stages of New York’s development. Seen in every medium from newspapers and films to novels, paintings, and computer software, such images, though disturbing, have been continuously popular. Page demonstrates with vivid examples and illustrations how each era’s destruction genre has reflected the city’s economic, political, racial, or physical tensions, and he also shows how the images have become forces in their own right, shaping Americans’ perceptions of New York and of cities in general.

Max Page is professor of architecture and history, University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He is a 2003 Guggenheim Fellow and author of The Creative Destruction of Manhattan, which received the 2001 Spiro Kostof Award of the Society of Architectural Historians. He lives in Amherst.

"An informative and provocative read."—Tama Starr, Wall Street Journal

"Erudite but lavishly illustrated."—Sam Roberts, New York Times

"The City's End explores the imaginative and often profitable ways that filmmakers, writers, and artists have blown up, incinerated, drowned or depopulated New York City. . . . Page thoughtfully analyzes why the city's ruination has been such an enduringly popular theme."—Ann Levin, Newsday