Monday, February 18, 2013

Book Review: The Mole People: Life in the Tunnels Beneath New York City

Lesson learned, don't do internet research in the middle of reading a book. Maybe at the beginning, or at the end, but not so good in the middle.

The reason I say this? I was enjoying this book about the homeless living in the tunnels under the city, even though I knew it was written in 1993 and a bit outdated, and then I read this note on wikipedia: "The book has met with criticism, primarily for the inaccuracy of geographical information, compounded by numerous factual errors and an apparent reliance on largely unverifiable claims. The strongest criticism came from Joseph Brennan, a New York subway enthusiast who declared that 'Every fact in this book that I can verify independently is wrong.'"

Hum ... not sure what to think about this. And once I started reading it again, it was hard to see it as anything more than a narrative, based on stories Toth heard as she spent time with homeless people she meet on the street. She tells of a gentleman taking her into the tunnels, which have barely any light, and looking at the photo of her on the book jacket, young, female, really young (as in, she could pass for 14), you wonder how she safely made it down there and back alive, and why.

Most of the story is non-proven repeating of stories she either experiences herself in the tunnels or those told to her by some people who she blatantly says often lie or inflate their stories. There are some facts thrown in, but they don't always hold their weight, and aren't always explained in a way that really makes sense.

So, I stopped reading at page 199. Yes, the stories were interesting, but now that there was a doubt in my mind as to their legitimacy, they didn't hold the weight they did before. And since things change over the years, who knows the status of the "Mole People" today. While I believe there could and very well might be people living under the subways in NYC, I am very uncertain that this is an accurate picture of their lives.

Review: 1 out of 5

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