Darton, Eric 1950-

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DARTON, Eric 1950-

PERSONAL: Born May 30, 1950, in New York, NY. Education: Empire State College of the State University of New York, B.A., 1990; Hunter College of the City University of New York, M.A., 1994.

ADDRESSES: Agent—Watkins Loomis Agency, Inc., 133 East 35th St., New York, NY 10016.

CAREER: Writer.

AWARDS, HONORS: Fiction fellow, New York Foundation for the Arts, 1991, Bread Loaf fellowship, 1998.


Free City (novel), Norton (New York, NY), 1996.

Divided We Stand: A Biography of New York's World Trade Center (nonfiction), Basic Books (New York, NY), 1999.

Work anthologized in After the World Trade Center: Rethinking New York City, edited by Michael Sorkin and Sharon Zukin, Routledge (New York, NY), 2002, and 110 Stories: New York Writes after September 11, edited by Ulrich Baer, New York University Press (New York, NY), 2002. Contributor to journals and periodicals, including Metropolis, Culturefront, Designer/Builder, American Letters & Commentary, and New England Review. Short fiction Radio Tirane appeared in Conjunctions, Volume 17, 1991.

WORK IN PROGRESS: A revised edition of Divided We Stand.

SIDELIGHTS: When Eric Darton first published Divided We Stand: A Biography of New York's World Trade Center in 1999, Basic Books printed a mere 5,000 copies. Two years later, as reported by Charlotte Abbott in Publishers Weekly, an additional 15,000 were in press, and copies were selling as fast as bookstores could stock them. "It became clear to me what had happened," Darton told Book, "when a woman who had bought the last copy of my book in the bookstore asked me to sign it. I was confronted with the cover of my own book—and I came close to losing it."

On September 11, 2001, terrorists flew airplanes filled with passengers into the twin towers of the World Trade Center, causing the collapse of the buildings and the deaths of more than three thousand innocent victims. One of the many consequences of this event was a sudden change in the significance of Darton's book.

Before September 11, as initial reviews of the book illustrate, Divided We Stand was merely a chronicle of what many architects and others regarded as an eyesore and a political boondoggle. Darton himself summed up this idea in the conclusion of his book, with an eerily prophetic discussion of the Trade Center towers as a living ruin. At that time, the buildings had already suffered one terrorist attack, though a far less devastating one, a 1993 bombing in which seven people were killed. But it was not in a literal sense that Darton considered the buildings as a ruin.

"A structure begins to fall into a state of ruin," he wrote, "when it is no longer supported by the productive relations that created it....In this sense, the World Trade Center came prepackaged as a ruin that has slowly been moving in the direction of becoming a living building. But even in the wake of the [1993] bombing, New Yorkers have never been able to successfully fill [architect Minuro] Yamasaki's twin silos with the kind of psychological investment freely poured into the Empire State Building [or] the Chrysler Building.... From an economic standpoint, the trade center—subsidized since its inception—has never functioned, nor was it intended to function, unprotected in the rough-and-tumble real estate market."

Todd Gitlin in the American Prospect, reviewing the book in 2000, noted that "Dreams of spiritless rationality were Yamasaki's specialty," and went on to discuss another famous (or rather, infamous) Yamasaki creation, the Pruitt-Igoe public housing project, which won prizes at the time of its construction in St. Louis in 1955. "But it is not famous for that reason," Gitlin went on. "If the name is familiar, that is because it became notorious 17 years later" when it was demolished "because the people who lived there hated it so much. The towers of the World Trade Center were equally abstract sculptures .... This is what happened when architects took seriously [French modernist architect] Le Corbusier's cry of 1933: 'Death of the street!'"

When the towers experienced a very different kind of death on September 11, views of the buildings themselves changed dramatically in hindsight, even as Darton's book became vastly more significant than it had been at the time of its publication. Whereas the Trade Center towers had few champions by the end of twentieth century, once they were gone, memories became much more fond. Reviewing Darton's book along with Twin Towers: The Life of New York City's World Trade Center by Angus Kress Gillespie, Philip Herter of the Boston Herald wrote, "It is hard to read these histories of the World Trade Center as anything but elegies to a certain part of 20th century urban America, and as reminders of the way history can veer into myth in the briefest instant. Author Eric Darton probably never dreamed that Divided We Stand, begun as his master's degree thesis on contemporary culture and mass media, would resonate with readers worldwide." Yet even long before the bombing that catapulted the Towers into the status of a vanished national icon, critics recognized the power in Darton's account: according to a Publishers Weekly reviewer in 1999, "This is a mesmerizing history of how deep-seated struggles over architectural aspirations, economics, city planning, and the exigencies of a democracy undergird the New York cityscape."



American Prospect, March 27, 2000, Todd Gitlin, review of Divided We Stand: A Biography of New York's World Trade Center, p. 75.

Book, Eric Wetzel, November-December, 2001, "9/ 11/01 One Writer's Moment of Clarity," p. 15.

Boston Herald, October 7, 2001, Philip Herter, "Authors Capture the Way We Were," p. 71.

Business Week, October 5, 2001, Eric Darton, "The Process of Creating a Ruin" (book excerpt).

Choice, October, 2000, review of Divided We Stand, p. 319.

Entertainment Weekly, October 12, 2001, Troy Patterson, "Pair Bonded: Two Authors Look at the Creation of the World Trade Center and How It Forever Changed the Manhattan Skyline," p. 80.

Kirkus Reviews, November 15, 1999, review of Divided We Stand, p. 48.

Library Journal, February 1, 2000, David Soltesz, review of Divided We Stand, p. 78.

New York Times, September 24, 2001, Richard Bernstein, review of Divided We Stand, p. E-6.

Publishers Weekly, November 22, 1999, review of Divided We Stand, p. 48; September 24, 2001, Charlotte Abbott, "News," p. 13.


Eric Darton/New York's World Trade Center: A Living Archive,http://ericdarton.net/ (May 18, 2002).

Fractalism,http://www.fractalism.com/ (May 18, 2002), review of Divided We Stand.

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