Friday, March 6, 2009

David Kushner's "Levittown"

David Kushner is the author of Masters of Doom and Jonny Magic and the Card Shark Kids. A contributing editor at Rolling Stone and Wired, he has also been published in the New York Times, New York, Entertainment Weekly, Parade, Salon, and the Village Voice. He does commentary for NPR, and teaches journalism at New York University.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Levittown: Two Extraordinary Families, One Ruthless Tycoon, and the Fight for the American Dream, and reported the following:
Levittown is about the dark side of the American Dream. It tells the true story behind the iconic suburb's whites-only policy - and the two families who challenged the builder's plan during the explosive summer of 1957.

Flipping to page 99, it seems Ford Madox Ford's statement might be right after all. The first two words on the page are "shattered window." I find that amazing, because it really does cut to the heart of the story.

The phrase comes at the moment when Levittown, Pennsylvania's first African-American family, the Myerses, came home to find a rock thrown through their front window. A mob had shown up on the day they moved in, and some attacked the home. In another sense, the "shattered window" suggests the shattering of this picture perfect dreamtown. But there's more. John Keats wrote a famous satire of a Levittown style community - the name of the book, The Crack in the Picture Window.

Further down page 99, however, there's the other key part of the Levittown story. It's not just about evil and hate. It's about the remaking of this model town. The page ends with the Myers' neighbors, the Wechslers, showing up with others to help them.
Learn more about the book and author at David Kushner's website.

--Marshal Zeringue