Late in the semester when we teach Writing New York, I give a lecture on Ginsberg’s Howl that situates it — especially the long attack on the burst of midtown skyscrapers as the heathen god Moloch — within the history of mid-century “urban renewal.”
To get the point across, I show some clips from Ric Burns’ New York that deal with the protracted antagonism between Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs in the 1960s. At some point over the past several years, I became convinced that Dr. Seuss’s book Yertle the Turtle (1958) perfectly parallels this confict — though the timing’s off by a few years — with Moses cast as Yertle (separated at birth?) and Jacobs as the little turtle Mack, whose burp upends Yertle’s scopocracy. (Is that even a word? He’s the king of all he surveys.) It’s been more commonly suggested that Seuss had Hitler in mind for Yertle’s prototype, but I think the reptilian monarch looks more like Moses, and so I’m happy with my anachronistic reading.
In his pre-election post today, Jeremiah draws the connection between Bloomberg and Moses, a comparison I find apt. I want to draw a similar connection between Bloomie and Yertle. And so, dear readers, we encourage you to get out the burp tomorrow. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if a bunch of ordinary little voters could prevent the billionaire from buying a third term?