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Reviews of Feral City by Jeremiah Moss

Feral City

On Finding Liberation in Lockdown New York

by Jeremiah Moss

Feral City by Jeremiah Moss X
Feral City by Jeremiah Moss
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     Not Yet Rated
  • Published:
    Oct 2022, 288 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Rebecca Foster
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About this Book

Book Summary

What happens when an entire social class abandons a metropolis? This genre-bending journey through lockdown New York offers an exhilarating, intimate look at a city returned to its rebellious spirit.

The pandemic lockdown of 2020 launched an unprecedented urban experiment. Traffic disappeared from the streets. Times Square fell silent. And half a million residents fled the most crowded city in America. In this innovative and thrilling book, author and social critic Jeremiah Moss, hailed as "New York City's career elegist" (New York Times), explores a city emptied of the dominant class―and their controlling influence. "Plagues have a disinhibiting effect," Moss writes. "As the normal order is suspended, the repressive force of civilization lifts and our rules fall away, shifting the boundaries of society and psyche."

In public spaces made vibrant by New Yorkers left behind, Moss experienced an uncanny time warp. Biking through deserted Manhattan, he encountered the hustlers, eccentrics, and renegades who had been pressed into silence and invisibility by an oppressive, normative gentrification, now reemerging to reclaim the city. For one wild year the streets belonged to wandering nudists and wheelie bikers, mystical vagabonds and performance artists working to disrupt the status quo, passionate activists protesting for Black lives―along with the everyday New Yorkers who had been pushed to the margins for too long. Participating in a historic explosion of activism, resistance, and spontaneity, from queer BLM marches to exuberant outdoor dance parties, Moss discovered an intoxicating freedom. Without "hyper-normal" people to constrain it, New York became more creative, connected, humane, and joyful than it had been in years.

Moss braids this captivating narrative with an account of his renewed sense of place as a transgender man, weaving together insights from psychoanalysis, literature, and queer theory. A kaleidoscopic vision of a city transformed, Feral City offers valuable insight into the way public space and the spaces inside us are controlled and can be set free.

25 black-and-white photographs

2.

EMPTINESS GIVES PERMISSION

Just like that, the New People abandon New York. On the weekend before lockdown, the bars are packed. Young hyper-normals go roving past in drunken mobs, grabbing a last hurrah—and a dose of coronavirus. On Monday, March 16, 2020, I wake to a ghost town, the streets gone tumbleweed quiet. No cars, no people, my building relaxed into stillness. All the market-rate tenants have gone. While the rest of us were stocking up on toilet paper and hand sanitizer, the heiress vanished, along with the downstairs people who leave bags of garbage in the hall. The Influencer has taken refuge at her family's home in a master-planned gated community with its own private airport. On her Instagram she puts up photos of palm trees and golf courses, complains about the dark roots in her quarantined hair, and styles a poolside picnic with Moët rosé, baguette, and brie. Hashtag blessed.

As soon as the New People leave, the Amazon packages stop coming. Doors ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

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As a portrait of a distinctive community during COVID-19 lockdown and of a radical fringe that bravely confronts inequality, Feral City stands out for its own particulars as well as for the light it sheds on recent history. It’s also an invitation to readers to think deeply about the significance of their own lockdown experiences and what from that time is worth preserving...continued

Full Review (729 words)

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(Reviewed by Rebecca Foster).

Media Reviews

The New Republic
Perhaps the best book on gentrification written in a decade… funny and gorgeously written… [Feral City] provides a vivid narrative of hypergentrification at a time when urban rents have produced cities where poor people have nowhere left to go but out.

New Yorker
[Feral City] is ruminative, provocative, and moving.

Washington Post
Moss is an attentively loving witness to New York City… Feral City is worth our attention for its striking narrative of a city where radical community flourished in a protracted period of crisis.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
A dynamic memoir...A captivating chronicle driven by keen wit, a strong sense of place, and a clear love of a city's old soul.

Library Journal (starred review)
A brilliant story of being lost and finding a place when socially constructed ideas of how people can or should show up are dismantled…Highly recommended…for anyone who has felt inexorably gutted and remade during the COVID pandemic.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Pushcart Prize winner Moss reflects in these razor-sharp essays on how life in New York City changed when the 'New People' ('young and funded...utterly unblemished, physically fit and clean-cut, as bland as skim milk and unsalted Saltines') fled during the Covid-19 pandemic...Shot through with pinpoint character sketches, incisive reportage on the Occupy City Hall protest movement, and lucid discussions of queer theory, this is a vital contribution to New York City history.

Author Blurb Eileen Myles, author of Afterglow
In its gentle way this is the most radical book I have read in a long time. It's a tale of daily resistance. There could be another world, and Feral City in all its thoughtful scrappy investigative feeling is a utopian map for a future I would want to inhabit. It's composed uncannily, yep, rhizomatically, out of Jeremiah Moss's own hands-on evocation of home, the disordered place where we're playing and marching.

Author Blurb Molly Crabapple, author of Drawing Blood and coauthor of Brothers of the Gun
A sublime and furious love letter to our city during the plague―to the months when we reclaimed our streets and lived most vividly even in the midst of death. A must for every New Yorker, and for everyone who has ever loved a place.

Author Blurb Sarah Schulman
Jeremiah Moss grapples with what happened when the private sector left the city at the height of the pandemic, and the people who share public space were left behind. Feral City asks the most complex questions: Who is the center of our culture? Who just owns the apparatus? What confrontations are necessary for our integrity as a collective? This story is a memory, a documentary, a personal journey, a political manifesto, a searing critique, a human embrace.

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Beyond the Book

A COVID-19 Nonfiction Reading List

Between autumn 2020 and spring 2021, lots of COVID-themed books started to appear on bookstore and library shelves in the UK, where I live. It felt like nonfiction was quicker to respond to the pandemic than fiction. Some of my favorites were too niche for US publication because they focus on the UK’s National Health Service (Intensive Care by Gavin Francis, a Scottish GP) or England’s lockdown spring (The Consolation of Nature by Michael McCarthy, Jeremy Mynott, and Peter Marren). It soon became a low-key obsession of mine to read whatever I could about COVID.

I’ve especially valued insider looks by medical professionals. Every Minute Is a Day by Robert Meyer, MD and Dan Koeppel is a blow-by-blow account of the first ...

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