Expanded Horizons: Memory, Memorials and Manhattan's Living Skyline (Review of James Sanders, Celluloid Skyline: New York and the Movies)
Some cities are characterized by their monuments. Paris is one, and Washington another. Unsurprisingly, these are also cities characterized by being the seat of government, cities of the State, urban spaces delineated by ministries, bureaucracies, courts of law, the architecture of administrative apparatus, devoted to governing in the present in part by mythologizing, monumentalizing, the past. The myth-making need not be dictatorial, let alonetotalitarian or Stalinist, in its architectural effect. Nor is it necessary that in order for monuments to be enjoyed aesthetically, the politics and ideologies which gave rise to them must have receded into the past, as in the medieval glories of old Prague or Rome, or the ancient imperial nobility of Vienna. The architecture and monuments of both Paris and London, for example, remain partly connected to living political traditions, and are the more moving for that. Even the monuments of sweltering, sweaty Washington have their own charm and dignity. There is serenity in the clean, classical lines of the Jefferson Memorial and the Washington Monument. The Lincoln Memorial is noble, befitting the nation's ark of the covenant, a vessel containing the sacred scriptures inscribed on its interior walls, the Gettysburg Address and the Second Inaugural Address, reborn through Dr King as America's altar of equality. And then, architecturally the greatest of Washington's monuments, the Vietnam Memorial; the haunting, forever ambiguous sadness of its belowground roll-call of the American dead and missing.