I become a transparent eye-ball. I am nothing. I see all. The currents of the Universal being circulate through me; I am part or particle of God.
—Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Nature”

Weapon shapely, naked, wan,/ Head from the mother’s bowels drawn/ Wood flesh and metal bone,/ Limb only one and lip only one.
—Walt Whitman, “Broad-Axe Poem”

New York’s Central Park and the suburban highway strip are as unlike as any two things can be, and yet both are quintessentially American. They are American in the same way that Versailles is French; they seem to express something fundamental and primal about the culture that produced them, and to express it in a way that literature or the pictorial arts cannot. But what precisely do they express about America, other than a loud and discordant bundle of contradictions?


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