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Atlantic Monthly Sidebar

77 North Washington Street -- January 1997

WE warmly recommend two new books that grew out of Atlantic Monthly articles: Fixing Broken Windows, by George L. Kelling and Catherine M. Coles, published by The Free Press, and The Divorce Culture, by Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, published by Alfred A. Knopf.

Fixing Broken Windows originated in our March, 1982, cover story, "Broken Windows." That article was written by Kelling and James Q. Wilson, who has contributed a foreword to the book. "We used the image of broken windows," Wilson writes, "to explain how neighborhoods might decay into disorder and even crime if no one attends faithfully to their maintenance." "Broken Windows" was a cogent argument for emphasizing "order maintenance" to prevent crime; the ideas it contained became the template first for the New York City Transit Authority's efforts to restore order to the subway and then for the New York City Police Department's new community-policing strategy.

The Transit Authority achieved success only after a frustrating ordeal of persuasion and step-by-step implementation (which Kelling, a criminologist at Rutgers University, and Coles, of Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, describe in the book). The transit police were skeptical. "Where in the hell did you ever get the crazy idea that disorder was police business?" one patrol officer shouted at Kelling. "Our job is fighting crime." Yet the public liked the new stress on order -- liked graffiti-free subway cars, for example -- and the strategy caught on. Mayor Rudolph Giuliani credits it with helping New York City to achieve the dramatic reductions in crime that have made headlines -- and has graciously acknowledged The Atlantic's role.

The Divorce Culture grew out of "Dan Quayle Was Right," The Atlantic's April, 1993, cover story -- an article that, as the book's publisher says, "ignited a media debate on the effects of divorce that rages still." No article we have run in years has generated as much comment as Whitehead's. In The Divorce Culture, a wholly original work that goes well beyond the article, Whitehead uses history, literature, psychology, economics, and political theory to challenge the idea of divorce as "an individual right and freedom to be exercised . . . without due regard for other stakeholders in the marital partnership." The Divorce Culture is bound to be one of the most passionately argued-over books of the new year.

One final note: As we were going to press, we were pleased to learn that James Carroll's An American Requiem, which appeared in excerpted form in our pages last April, had won the 1996 National Book Award for nonfiction.

-- THE EDITORS
Copyright © 1997 by The Atlantic Monthly Company. All rights reserved.
The Atlantic Monthly; January 1997; 77 North Washington Street; Volume 279, No. 1; page 4.

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