Odds and Ends

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Teju Cole reads from Open City and discusses urban experience at Harvard Graduate School of Design, 2012.

More book club discussion from Cyrus on Friday.

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Today’s Village Voice cover story, by the incomparable Jen Doll, tackles the age-old question of How to Be a New Yorker. The very title, riffing on a Mad Men-era guidebook by Les and Joan Rich, suggests that being a New Yorker is something learned rather than something most of us are born with. (The designation “Native New Yorker,” after all, highlights the fact that the rest of us are transplants, working our way up from rube status.)

I spent an hour or so on the phone with Jen a couple weeks ago talking about the piece and am happy to find myself quoted a couple times. (The really great stuff comes from Milton Glaser, whose work hangs in my office. I can’t say how happy I am to rub shoulders with him in print — and also with long-time friend of PWHNY Jeremiah Moss.) In one of my quotes, I suggest that when you hear someone say “I’m a New Yorker …” you get kind of suspicious. You want some form of authentification. More often than not those words are followed by something terribly un-New Yorkey, some justification of the city’s ongoing transformations under the juggernaut of gentrification.

Jen’s article reclaims the high ground for the New York Romantics among us. I really enjoyed the piece. One of my students just tweeted that it made her cry. So read it, especially if you’re included in that category of people E.B. White argued were the truest New Yorkers, “strangers who have pulled up stakes somewhere and come to town, seeking sanctuary or fulfillment or some greater or lesser grail.”

On the subject, though, of perpetual complaints that New York just isn’t what it used to be, you might enjoy some of the following, especially if you’re visiting this site for the first time:

We’ve had, over the years, several posts on White’s classic essay.

Here’s a gaggle of posts on the dramatic transformation of the Bowery over time, and a short one that looks at the earliest efforts to gentrify the Bowery, all the way back in the 1820s.

Jen mentioned, in her piece, Theodore Dreiser’s complaints that New York in the 20s just wasn’t what it had been when he arrived. Here’s a little more on that.

My epilogue to our Cambridge Companion to the Literature of the New York tackles a similar problem and identifies nostalgic and counternostalgic strains in a lot of writing about New York over time. (By counternostalgic I mean the sort of writing that reminds you that the olden days weren’t always better for everyone.)

A few years ago we hosted a conference on the theme Lost New York, 1609-2009. You can download a pdf of the accompanying exhbit catalog, featuring essays by some of our graduate students, here.

If these sorts of topics tickle your fancy, stick around, add us to your feed, or follow us on Twitter. We’re currently in the middle of a two-semester online version of our regular NYU course offering, Writing New York. More here.

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We’re painfully aware how slow it’s been around here the last several weeks. We have some decent explanations, and we hope to be back up and running sooner than later.

First up will be our inaugural summer book club discussion, on Jonathan Lethem’s Chronic City. Not to late to pick up a copy and join us. We’ll most likely commence next week.

Other stuff going on in our corner of the cosmos: Friend-of-the-blog Caryn Rose had a rock n roll novel come out this summer. Book launch party for B-Sides and Broken Hearts takes place next week at Soft Spot, on Bedford in Williamsburg. Details here. And a trailer:

Speaking of rock n roll, I’m going to be on WNYC’s Soundcheck on Wednesday, 8/17, to talk about Marquee Moon (the album and the book) and the downtown scene in the 70s.

More 70s news: we’re saddened this week to hear about the passing of NYC graffiti legend Kase 2. If you’ve never managed to see the 1980s documentary Style Wars, this is the week to queue it up. Kase/Case delivers some of the film’s most memorable moments. To wit:

And if you thought we’d forgotten about anything in the city pre-1973, think again. We’re so excited about the reopening of the New-York Historical Society this fall (11/11/11). Ever wonder what the oldest building in NYC is?

Stick with us. We’ll be out of vacation/moving mode shortly.

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This week in Writing New York we’re still in the early twentieth century, with looks at two artistic enclaves: bohemian Greenwich Village (just before and after World War I) and the Harlem Renaissance, the subject of Cyrus’s lecture Wednesday morning.

Over the last few years we’ve pulled together some posts about the original Village bohemians that might be useful to our students or interesting to those of you who are following along at home (or arriving here via a Google image search for the Provincetown Playhouse, shown above). The main resource we’d recommend, though, is Melissa Bradshaw’s chapter on the Village in our Cambridge Companion, which our students are assigned to read this week. We can’t say enough good things about that essay and how well is anchors this unit for our course.

Previously on PWHNY, we’ve taken a look at nineteenth-century precursors to Village bohemia, including the scene at Pfaff’s, a bar at Bleecker and Broadway where Whitman hung out with the likes of the scandalous actress Adah Isaacs Mencken. The earliest description I know of a New York bohemian enclave comes slightly earlier, in Melville’s outrageous novel Pierre (1852).

Our trip through bohemian GV includes consideration of the Provincetown Players and especially Eugene O’Neill, whose play The Hairy Ape is on the syllabus. Locals will know how much buzz there’s been in the neighborhood over the demolition/reconstruction of the Provincetown Playhouse on Macdougal. (See Curbed’s archive of related stories for details.) For images of the refurbished theater, click here. Earlier this semester our friend Joe Salvatore directed a trio of Provincetown originals, embedded in an original frame narrative, to launch the space’s reopening. I’d hoped to write more about that at the time, but it obviously didn’t happen. Students who attended with me or others who saw those shows are certainly welcome to comment here.

O’Neill has popped up on this blog from time to time, including yesterday, when I mentioned Ric Burns’s documentary about the playwright and included a clip from the film that showed James O’Neill in action in The Count of Monte Cristo, circa 1913. I should have included this clip from Burns’s film, which features Christopher Plummer first discussing then performing lines from the role of James Tyrone, from O’Neill’s masterpiece, Long Day’s Journey into Night, written in 1940 but not staged until 1956. The role, of course, is based on O’Neill’s father. The really amazing stuff comes about five minutes into this clip:

A few years ago I wrote about a set of early O’Neill plays that were staged by the Metropolitan Playhouse. I’ve also tried to imagine how Emma Goldman, whose New York circles overlapped with O’Neill’s, would have reacted to his drama. She had her own bit to say in her lectures on modern drama’s significance.

Elsewhere: Don’t miss the Bowery Boys’ post about O’Neill’s favorite bohemian dive, The Golden Swan. (He just called it the “Hell Hole.”) That last link will take you to John Sloan’s visual rendering of the place; Sloan was also involved in something I mentioned briefly in lecture: the night in January 1917 when Marcel Duchamp and friends, including Sloan, climbed Washington Square Arch and declared Greenwich Village a free and independent republic. Sloan’s “Arch Conspirators” marks that occasion.

Inspired? Check out Teri Tynes’s list of 25 radical things to do in Greenwich Village, from her blog Walking Off the Big Apple.

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For the next week, while NYU is on spring break, things may continue to be a little slow around these parts. Be assured, though we’re hard at work (returning copy edits on these, for instance), we feel a little like this thanks to the midterm reprieve:

Girl Walk // All Day from jacob krupnick on Vimeo.

The Times ran a piece on this video a week ago. For a free download of the complete Girl Talk album, click here. Have a great break!

Because I sometimes only get out of my neighborhood when I’m online. Sad, I know.

Calling out the Times for not knowing much about Marble Hill, where Manhattan and the Bronx meet by land. [Boogie Downer]

The Times should have talked to Michael Miscione, Manhattan’s borough historian. See his comments on this old City Room piece by Jennifer 8. Lee, which gets the borough border history right.

New Yorkers who want to protest the censorship of David Wojnarowicz’s video at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. will march along museum mile on Sunday, December 19. [Art +]

What did we lose to gain the Bayonne Bridge? [Ape Shall Not Kill Ape]

We loved this profile of Newtown Pentacle’s Mitch Waxman: “Tour Guide of the Toxic.” [Baruch College Dollars & Sense]

A rare Coney Island victory: Shore Theater landmarked. [Amusing the Zillion]

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File under: Things I probably won’t see/do in person, given they’re outside my little downtown bubble, and also given the fact that my next two December Saturdays, per long-standing Smith-Waterman family tradition, will be spent in the back room of DBA for their annual East Village neighborhood fair of homemade holiday gifts. But if that’s not your scene, try one of these:

A guide to holiday markets in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens. [Markets of New York]

A five-borough guide to holiday lights and shows [CBS]

Another guide, specifically geared toward Astoria. [We Heart Astoria]

Sunday: Bronx Messiah and Taste of the Bronx Food Show. [Bronx Mama]

Saturday and Sunday: Harlem for the Holidays. [Uptown Flavor]

Also Saturday and Sunday: Staten Island Society of Model Railroaders sponsors its annual holiday train show and toy giveaway. [SI Live]

Queens holiday lights photo by Alex Goodwind from the CBS post linked above.

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Our friends at Manhattan Users Guide have asked us, once again, to take part in a collaborative holiday project with several other NYC bloggers. Tomorrow we’ll post our contribution, “Christmas with Andy Warhol,” in honor of the fact that Cyrus and I haven’t been able to escape the Age of Warhol all autumn. If you’d like to see what we posted as part of last year’s holiday blogtacular, click here. Otherwise, we’ll see you tomorrow!

Somehow I doubt this will ever be turned into a Levi’s advertisement:

via @Parches

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A century-old faded ad for Bloomie’s, Lexington btwn 115th and 116th [What about the Plastic Animals]

Have you explored the South Bronx Cultural Corridor? [Bronx Arts]

Inauguración de LUIS MARQUEZ EN EL MUNDO DEL MAÑANA: LA IDENTIDAD MEXICANA Y LA FERIA MUDIAL DE 1939-40, Domingo 14 de noviembre, de 15:00 a 18:00, with a special offer for the Museum’s twitter followers. [Queens Museum]

Brooklyn Historical Society workshop: “Research Your House,” Saturday from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m. [Brooklyn Heights Blog]

Great Kills Park Nature Walk on Sunday [Staten Island Museum]

Timely pre-walk reading and welcome news: After a year’s hiatus, the Staten Island blog Walking Is Transportation is back … with some thoughts about honoring solitude.

“Harlem Fall”: photo by Yojimbot at Harlem Hybrid.

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