24. Bang the Drum Slowly (1956)
Author: Mark Harris
Areas Featured: Washington Heights
Damn, this city loves baseball. When you move here from somewhere else, it takes a minute to get used to how quickly you'll learn whether someone follows the Yankees or the Mets. Yes, Bang the Drum Slowly is about baseball. But it's also about how the down-and-out, the have-nots of society, deal with each other.
Harris's novel reminds us that those who have a little can be incredibly cruel or, from time to time, incredibly kind, to those who have even less. You only need to see one argument between a cabbie and a street cart owner, or a shouting match between a super and his starving-artist tenant to notice that these struggles are ingrained in the fabric of New York.
Professional sports, at least back in the days, when the athletes, by and large, weren't making any money, seems an apt analogy for a modern New York. Whether it's dealing with an overrun DMV or a 24-hour McDonalds, it's hard to forget that now, as then, nobody is making any money but the owners. As the Narrator tells the Author: "Baseball is stupid, Author, I hope you put it in your book, a game rigged by rich idiots to keep poor idiots from wising up to how poor they are." —BG