On Finding Liberation in Lockdown New York
by Jeremiah Moss
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Pub Date 04 Oct 2022 | Archive Date 30 Sep 2022
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.
About the Author: Jeremiah Moss is the acclaimed author of Vanishing New York. Winner of a Pushcart Prize, his writing has appeared in n+1, the New York Times, The New Yorker, and the Paris Review, among others.
"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." - Eileen Myles, author of Afterglow
"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." - Molly Crabapple, author of Drawing Blood and coauthor of Brothers of the Gun
"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." - Sarah Schulman
"The saddest and the most exhilarating book you will read this year. It is an epic of a liberated city, a philosophical investigation, a love poem addressed to at least a million New Yorkers, and a hex flung at those zombies Moss calls the ‘hyper-normals.’" - Lucy Sante
Available on NetGalley
Jeremiah Moss, a self-defined transsexual and also a psychoanalyst, has written a detailed account of the COVID lockdown year-and-a-half- especially the year 2020- in lower Manhattan. He begins with vividly describing his life in the East Village pre-Pandemic. He introduces the New People- people who have come to NYC from other places and have no real connection to the City itself, using it as another experience they have for awhile and then move on.
Once Lockdown happens, the New People leave to other places where they feel safer. And then the New Yorkers, the ones who have identified with the city and have no place else to go (or would want to), own the city. It's a jubilant time for Moss and his chosen family, many of them street people who rejoice in the lack of structure during a time when everyone is confused.
He chronicles the uprisings- the influx of police to try to shut down the noise of joy, The parades and protests, The vivid presence of the BLM movement and constant violent interactions with cops. The City trying to restore order in order to open up again to commerce and tourism, to "return to normal". Only there is no normal.
Thanks to NetGalley and Edelweiss Plus for the eARC.