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The Devil's Playground: A Century of Pleasure and Profit in Times Square
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The Devil's Playground: A Century of Pleasure and Profit in Times Square

3.51 of 5 stars 3.51  ·  rating details  ·  95 ratings  ·  10 reviews
As Times Square turns 100, New York Times Magazine contributing writer James Traub tells the story of how this mercurial district became one of the most famous and exciting places in the world. The Devil’s Playground is classic and colorful American history, from the first years of the twentieth century through the Runyonesque heyday of nightclubs and theaters in the 1920s ...more
Paperback, 313 pages
Published December 21st 2004 by Random House Trade (first published March 16th 2004)
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Susan Olesen

Okay, it’s out of date (2004) but it’s history, so it’s good until that point, and since most of the landmarks he talks about are still doing a thriving business, I’m not having a problem with it.

Times Square, simply put, is the Icon of America itself, almost as much as the White House. For more than a hundred years, it has been the center of the world, the image people have when they think of New York, or Broadway, or important theater. This is where American standard songs were written (Grand
More like 2.5 stars. The idea is fascinating: trace the history of Times Square from its humble beginnings to the giant corporate billboard that is today. I appreciated some of the earlier chapters but got bogged down with his writing style. The book just got boring the longer it went on. I did learn some useful information but think it should have been about 100 pages shorter.
What is it with folks who write for the New Yorker publishing books that claim to be stand-alone works but are, in actuality, simply a collection of the articles they've written for the New Yorker, expanded and stitched together with rough yarn?

All of that said, I enjoyed the read immensely, regardless of the patchwork feel of the thing. Traub does a nice job of presenting the history of Times Square (if a little spotty on some of the details of certain, "uninteresting" eras)

One feels nostalgic
I really enjoyed this book, which traces the history of Times Square from its earliest beginnings to the era of redevelopment and "Disneyfication" in the 1990s. I was surprised to find myself liking the later, more contemporary chapters, just as much if not more as those on Times Square's early days. It seemed that perhaps Traub, a reporter at the NYT, was more engaged with the later chapters, for which he could do on-the-scenes research and interviews, than with the earlier ones, which were all ...more
Dianne Landry
Ah, Times Square, that wonderful, crowded, loud, gaudy centre of iniquity. The stories this place could tell! As someone who has spent many hours there (including one drunken New Year's Eve, don't ask) I can say that unfortunattely, Mr. Traub is not the man to tell them. His style is very plodding and just doesn't do one of my favourite places in the world the justice it deserves. Oh well, at least he tried.
Xander Ring
This was a very good read. A comprehensive and entertaining history of Times Square and through it a history of entertainment in America. The chapters on the glory days and decline of this area are fascinating and entertaining. I'll be in New York in a few weeks and I look forward to seeing Times Square with new eyes. ...more
I went to school in Times Sq. during the twilight of its dirty days. I miss the grit and dirt and am blinded by the lights making TSQ the playground it was never meant to be. One thing that hasn't changed is how much the tourists annoy the fuck out of me
A fast concise and fascinating history of 100 years of Times Square. Who new urban history could be so much fun.
More like 2 1/2 stars. It's a fascinating subject, but the book is just not that well written.
Absolutely boring, I cannot finish this.
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