In Search of Lost Time

Also see:
Intimate History by Benjamin Schwarz
The Atlantic , April 2010

Never have slums looked more beautiful than in Of Time and the City . In dreamy footage from the 1950s of the laboring classes' shabby 19th-century back-to-backs--two rooms down and two up, kitchen papered in newsprint--on severe, narrow, treeless streets, the squalor is plain. But joyous children (and their dogs) are everywhere: tearing through the maze of alleys, clomping through puddles, singing with delight in their cheap, tidy school clothes in their cement (again treeless) schoolyards, and playing in grimy streets under the watchful eyes of worn-out mothers who sit on their well-scrubbed front steps in their threadbare frocks. Though tatty, these neighborhoods were what would now be called, somewhat patronizingly, "intact communities."

Jennie Rothenberg Gritz is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where she edits digital features.

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