A Coney Island Reader: Through Dizzy Gates of Illusion

A Coney Island Reader: Through Dizzy Gates of Illusion

by Louis J. Parascandola
     
 

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Featuring a stunning gallery of portraits by the world's finest poets, essayists, and fiction writers--including Walt Whitman, Stephen Crane, José Martí, Maxim Gorky, Federico García Lorca, Isaac Bashevis Singer, E. E. Cummings, Djuna Barnes, Colson Whitehead, Robert Olen Butler, and Katie Roiphe--this anthology is the first to focus on the

Overview

Featuring a stunning gallery of portraits by the world's finest poets, essayists, and fiction writers--including Walt Whitman, Stephen Crane, José Martí, Maxim Gorky, Federico García Lorca, Isaac Bashevis Singer, E. E. Cummings, Djuna Barnes, Colson Whitehead, Robert Olen Butler, and Katie Roiphe--this anthology is the first to focus on the unique history and transporting experience of a beloved fixture of the New York City landscape.

Moody, mystical, and enchanting, Coney Island has thrilled newcomers and soothed native New Yorkers for decades. With its fantasy entertainments, renowned beach foods, world-class boardwalk, and expansive beach, it provides a welcome respite from the city's dense neighborhoods, unrelenting traffic, and somber grid. Coney Island has long offered a kaleidoscopic panorama of people, places, and events, creating, as Lawrence Ferlinghetti once wrote, "a Coney Island of the mind." This anthology captures the highs and lows of that sensation, with works that imagine Coney Island as a restful resort, a playground for the masses, and a symbol of America's democratic spirit, as well as a Sodom by the sea, a garish display of capitalist excess, and a paradigm of urban decay. As complex as the city of which it is a part, Coney Island engenders limitless perspectives, a composite inspiring everyone who encounters it to sing its electric song.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times - Sam Roberts
…an overdue anthology that vividly paints Brooklyn's seaside playground in psychedelic prose and poetry.
Publishers Weekly
10/13/2014
The ever-contradictory nature of Coney Island is brought to light in this collection of literature from some of the 19th and 20th centuries’ most prominent writers. The brothers Parascandola, a professor of English and historian of medicine, respectively, present Coney Island as a multifaceted location: relaxing ocean-side resort, site of three great amusement parks, a place of violence and racial tension, and repository of history deserving preservation. Organized chronologically in four sections, the selections begin with a Walt Whitman essay and include such writers as José Martí, Maxim Gorky, Delmore Schwartz, Djuna Barnes, Colson Whitehead, and even a press release published in 2009 by the Coney Island Development Corporation that presents its rezoning plan. It is a diverse collection that crosses genres and gives readers a taste of the best and worst of Coney Island. The editors also present an appendix of related movies and music. One downside is that many of the selections have been excerpted from longer works. Still, it succeeds in demonstrating Coney Island’s “timeless” nature as a place that “continues to be reborn.” Illus. (Dec.)
Michael Immerso

A Coney Island Reader brings together a vibrant collection of voices that chronicle and critique Coney Island's extraordinary history from its formation to its most recent phase of revitalization, with all the glow and glitter of Luna Park.

Dick Zigun

An amazing Americana anthology of Coney fact-fiction-poetry-tabloid news and government propaganda, many pieces obscure, a few famous yet so hard to find all bound together in what now becomes the definitive and best beach book read about the Island that invented beach leisure.

New York Times - Sam Roberts

An overdue anthology that vividly paints Brooklyn's seaside playground in psychedelic prose and poetry.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle - Raanan Geberer

If one is interested in the history of Coney Island, A Coney Island Reader is a must.

World Literature Today

From Nathan's Hotdogs and the Wonder Wheel to end-of-season gloom and recession, Coney sings the bright and dim electric song of Brooklyn's iconic peninsula. This literary anthology unfolds the layers of the unique destination while enhancing the experience with historical photos.

Chicago Tribune - June Sawyers

A Coney Island Reader is a wonderful collection of fiction and nonfiction, poetry and journalism, memoirs and official government reports accompanied by evocative photographs and illustrations. The cover alone captures the essence of the place: fun, chaotic, unpredictable.

Brooklyn Based - Annaliese Griffin

Coney Island might seem an unlikely muse, but in a city that has always been home to writers of all stripes, the seaside enclave has consistently driven pen to paper, fingertips to keyboard.

Library Journal
12/01/2014
The Parascandolas (Louis is a professor of English at Long Island University and John is an expert on medicine and public health) have compiled a comprehensive anthology of writings on a unique place in Brooklyn that has attracted tourists and native New Yorkers alike ever since it opened. After a foreword by Kevin Baker (the author of a number of historical novels about New York City), there is a scholarly introduction by the editors that is followed by bibliographical references. The material is divided into four parts, each representing specific time frames in Coney Island's history: the beginnings through 1896; the era of the three amusement parks (1897–1911); the area in transition (1912–48); and the years of decline and possible rebirth (1949 to the present). The selections range from newspaper articles and municipal reports to literary pieces by poets, essayists, and fiction writers (some famous but others local and more obscure), such as Walt Whitman, José Martí, Maxim Gorky, O. Henry, Federico García Lorca, and Sol Yurick. All of the pieces are worthy and in many cases fascinating. The editors also provide information on the authors, a chronology of Coney Island, and a list of movies and music that feature the neighborhood. The illustrations are evocative and well chosen. VERDICT A must-read compilation for anyone who has ever visited Coney Island at least once if not many times and has fond (or perhaps not-so-fond) memories of this important landmark attraction. Recommended for any library, public or academic, with a New York City collection.—Morris Hounion, New York City Coll. of Technology, Brooklyn

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780231165730
Publisher:
Columbia University Press
Publication date:
12/09/2014
Pages:
360
Sales rank:
1,164,669
Product dimensions:
7.00(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.50(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

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What People are saying about this

John Kasson

Consistently enticing, absorbing, and informative, A Coney Island Reader will delight anyone interested in the rich history of this fascinating resort.

Bryan Waterman

A timely, important addition to anthologies of New York writing. A Coney Island Reader will be welcomed by urban historians and a general public that continues to be fascinated by Coney Island's ramshackle roller coaster of a history

Meet the Author

Louis J. Parascandola is professor of English at Long Island University. He is the editor of "Look for Me All Around You": Anglophone Caribbean Immigrants in the Harlem Renaissance and coeditor of In Search of Asylum: The Later Writings of Eric Walrond.

John Parascandola taught at the University of Wisconsin–Madison before serving as chief of the History of Medicine Division of the National Library of Medicine and as Public Health Service Historian. He is the author of The Development of American Pharmacology: John J. Abel and the Shaping of a Discipline and Sex, Sin, and Science: A History of Syphilis in America.

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