Sunday, January 15, 2012

Evan Hughes's "Literary Brooklyn," about brilliant writers on the subject of America's true second city.

(Sooner or later I'll get back to Manhattan, but as you can see, I am enjoying my Brooklyn sojourn.)
Evans Hughes’s “Literary Brooklyn: The Writers of Brooklyn and the Story of American City Life” is called by reviewer Brian Patrick Eha "a gathering picture of the borough as it has been described by generations of poets and novelists, from Whitman and Crane to Jonathan Lethem, Colson Whitehead and Jennifer Egan. 
 "[The book] charts the tumultuous development of the borough from Walt Whitman's time there to the present.  And I do mean charts: the front matter includes a map identifyhing the residence of more than a dozen authors in various Brooklyn neighborhoods," Eha says.

Eha’s review continues, “Hughes assumes that the reader is familiar with these [authors], but he views them with a fresh eye. He is not afraid to judge and interpret, a fact that becomes especially evident in his chapter on Henry Miller.

"Though the author of Tropic of Cancer gets his due as a stylist and a pioneer, he emerges in Hughes’s rendering as a deeply unpleasant man whose talent arose from personal bitterness and ebbed out into a morass of increasingly pornographic novels and diminishing artistic returns……

[Hughes] is a master of the telling detail that crystallizes a whole character: Norman Mailer marching into a Brooklyn Heights bank wearing a combat jacket and T-shirt and clutching a massive royalty check; Hart Crane drawing inspiration from Ravel’s ‘Boléro’ during ecstasies of composition. Yet he offers much more than a portrait gallery.

"The historical backdrop never fades from view, and Hughes is at pains to identify exact locations, right down to numbered addresses,”  the review says.

The book sounds fascinating, and I look forward to reading it.  Here’s the link to Eha’s review:

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