Roberta Brandes Gratz and Stephen A. Goldsmith, co-founders of The Center for the Living City at Purchase College, write: On the Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design website is a tribute to author and urban activist Jane Jacobs, who died April 24. Central to this organization’s international workshops on creating policeable places is the concept of “eyes on the street,” a term coined by Jacobs in the first of her nine books, The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961). In the clear, accessible language that is one of Jacobs’s trademarks, “eyes on the street” illustrates how the safest streets have a multiplicity of uses–as many as possible–that draw many people for different purposes all day and evening. The application of “eyes on the street” in police training sessions is just one extraordinary example of the breadth and depth of Jacobs’s influence around the world. So ingrained in the culture have concepts like “mixed use” become that few who use them know where they originated. Jacobs cared little for the credit but a lot for the utility of her ideas. Understanding about anything, she argued, comes only through direct observation and persistent inquiry. Her inclusive spirit emphasized the value of all participants and gave greater weight to the informed citizen than the credentialed expert. This simple truth she described once as “trusting the local.” She was an advocate of organic cities, a protector of authentic places, a fierce opponent of grand plans for highways at the expense of mass transit, a promoter of modest accretions to existing places instead of over-designed new ones, a proponent of economically and ethnically mixed neighborhoods, an astute observer of how economies and ecologies work. She listened carefully to citizens’ testimony at public hearings, never resisted the opportunity to stand up to power and wished only for people to continue the dialogue she had started, not to duplicate her words. It took a while but she came to understand the breadth of her influence. Yet she was troubled by people who misapplied her thinking or absorbed only part of the melody and not the full song. The real crime now would be to reduce her thinking to some single note about cities rather than to listen to the full orchestration of her works (see www.thenation.com for an uncut version).
PAMUK AT PEN
“The joy of saying whatever you want to say is inextricably linked with human dignity.” This latest endorsement of artistic freedom was appropriately uttered by the Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk in the Arthur Miller Freedom to Write Lecture, which he delivered at PEN’s Festival of International Literature held in New York City in April. Pamuk, one of Turkey’s most popular and honored novelists (My Name Is Red, Snow and others) and an internationally recognized writer whose books have been translated into more than forty languages, was nevertheless threatened with prosecution by the Turkish government last year for “insulting Turkishness” by violating the prohibition against statements linking Turkey to the 1915 Armenian genocide. The charges were eventually dropped after an international outcry in which PEN was a significant voice. Pamuk’s first contact with PEN came in 1985 when its American Center president, Arthur Miller, and Harold Pinter arrived in Turkey to speak with a number of writers who were being prosecuted by the military government (see Miller, “Dinner With the Ambassador,” May 18, 1985). Pamuk accompanied the two playwrights on their rounds, and after hearing many tales of cruelty, he no longer felt that he could “protect myself from all this and do nothing but write beautiful novels.” He came eventually to recognize that there are universal human rights of free expression superior to the values of one’s religion, tribe or nation.
On May 8 Eric Foner, a member of our editorial board, began a one-year term as president of the Society of American Historians. He succeeds Frances FitzGerald, also a member of the magazine’s board. Founded in 1939 “to promote literary distinction in historical writing,” the SAH is an organization of historians from within and without academe.
Attention, New Yorkers: starting May 5 and continuing through May 8, the Stella Adler Studio of Acting is holding a Harold Clurman Festival of the Arts. There are a number of talks and panel discussions on the agenda, all taking place at the Adler Studio, 31 West 27th Street (information: Nina Capelli, 212-689-0087, ext. 27, or firstname.lastname@example.org). Harold Clurman, of course, was The Nation‘s influential drama critic from 1953 through 1980. Before that he co-founded the radical Group Theater in 1931 and was a celebrated director. With Clifford Odets’s Awake and Sing! having just opened a successful run at the Belasco Theater, the timing for this symposium is appropriate. Odets was an original member of the Group and wrote several of his best plays for it before decamping to Hollywood. Clurman directed the first production of Awake and Sing! in 1935 after Lee Strasberg backed out. Stella Adler, also an original member of the Group, hid her glamour under a wig and a frumpy dress to play the matriarch of Odets’s stage family, trapped in a cramped apartment amid Depression-era poverty.
POLLING IN THE STREETS
Overshadowed by the nationwide immigrant demonstrations the last weekend of April was the antiwar demo in New York City on April 29, sponsored by United for Peace and Justice. Sparsely reported in the New York press, the march down Broadway drew some 350,000 people, according to its sponsors. Even if we reduce that figure by a third, it is still a sizable turnout in support of an end to US intervention in Iraq and suggests the anti-Iraq War movement is far from dormant.