Central Park: An Anthology

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Overview

A wild night outdoors with Bill Buford. A football tradition with Nathaniel Rich. A jog around the reservoir with Mark Helprin as he "protects" Jacqueline Onassis from imagined harm. The 843 carefully planned acres of Central Park have not only crept into the hearts of its 38 million annual visitors, but also into the life and work of a diverse array of writers who come to revel in its natural remedy for urban chaos.

In Central Park, a dozen exclusive pieces commissioned ...

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Overview

A wild night outdoors with Bill Buford. A football tradition with Nathaniel Rich. A jog around the reservoir with Mark Helprin as he "protects" Jacqueline Onassis from imagined harm. The 843 carefully planned acres of Central Park have not only crept into the hearts of its 38 million annual visitors, but also into the life and work of a diverse array of writers who come to revel in its natural remedy for urban chaos.

In Central Park, a dozen exclusive pieces commissioned especially for this book are accompanied by a handful of beloved classics. Francine Prose reflects on open-air performances by Nina Simone and James Brown; Jonathan Safran Foer writes a creation myth of the park; Buzz Bissinger meditates on how the park defined his early life; and Marie Winn definitively answers Holden Caulfield’s question of where the ducks go when the ponds freeze over.

This vibrant collection presents Central Park in all its diverse glory, with an ode on every page to a fifty-one-block swath of special New York magic. A must-read for the thousands who consider the park their own, and a keepsake for the many more who visit, it will be a standard for years to come.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
"In a city where people can live sixty-three thousand to a square mile," Central Park is an escape, adventure, meditation, memory, and amusement, and this anthology, comprising the work of some of New York's literary luminaries, is a charming 21-essay tribute to what "is probably the most closely watched and monitored 843 acres on Earth." Marie Winn pens a funny letter to Holden Caulfield about what happens to the park's ducks in winter; Bill Buford tries sleeping there one night; and Nathaniel Rich gives the sentimental history of an annual Thanksgiving touch-football game (the "Turkey-Lurkey Bowl"). Others—Susan Cheever, Colson Whitehead, Adam Gopnik, and Paul Auster among them—fish for carp, run past Jackie Kennedy, befriend goats at the zoo, and explore the place "where nature is so beautifully and spectacularly kept on a leash." But it wasn't always so: the masterpiece of Frederick Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux was, at times, a "municipal embarrassment," the site of muggings, murders, and—rumor had it—"a nightmarish water fountain that dribbled raw sewage into the mouths of toddlers." It's clear, by the collection's range, that there must be at least as many Central Parks as there are annual visitors—and that's close to 40 million. (May)
From the Publisher

"A delectable collection! Central Park turns out to be more than trees and grass and paths; rather, a touchstone of Memory and Imagination." —Cynthia Ozick

"[A] sprightly new collection… Central Park is now a dazzling reincarnation of the Edenic landscape Olmsted and Vaux envisioned more than a century and a half ago. No matter how much the park has changed… it radiates for many of the writers here a sense of timelessness and constancy: It remains a kind of memory portal to the past, a Proustian time machine." —Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

"I loved this book. Central Park is a very special place for all of us who have lived in NYC for any length of time, or who grew up here—anyone who considers NYC their spiritual if not physical home."  —Roz Chast

"To read these reminiscences is to be struck by the role of the park not just as a compensatory blast of nature, quiet, calm and oxygen in a city with too little of all them, but also as a jointly savored event, a common currency, something possessed by everyone but owned by no one." —Frank Bruni, NYTimes.com

"Reading these wonderful short essays will ignite the hot season within your head, no matter what the weather’s like outside."—The Daily Beast 

“All of the contributions, from humorous to deeply moving, are worth reading, with descriptions and insights that will be treasured by anyone intrigued by Central Park, no matter their own familiarity.  This volume gives readers a sense of why the park engenders such deep emotions and wonderment in those who enjoy it.” —Library Journal

 “As varied and inviting as its namesake. Take it to the nearest spot of green, spread a blanket, and enjoy.”  —Barnes & Noble Review

 

 


 

Library Journal
Blauner (Blauner Books Literary Agency; editor, Coach: 25 Writers Reflect on People Who Made a Difference) has assembled a collection of 12 new and seven reprinted pieces that explore Central Park in many of its aspects. Here are the Central Park Zoo, amateur football near the Metropolitan Museum of Art, live concerts, an assortment of wildlife, the park at night, and many other evocative scenes. Many of the pieces amount to short personal essays by prominent writers who share their particular memories. A reprinted piece by Jonathan Safran Foer and a new piece by Brooks Hansen are fictional. All of the contributions, from humorous to deeply moving, are worth reading, with descriptions and insights that will be treasured by anyone intrigued by Central Park, no matter their own familiarity. VERDICT Most Central Park books are histories or guidebooks; this volume gives readers a sense of why the park engenders such deep emotions and wonderment in those who enjoy it. Recommended.—Morris Hounion, NYC Technical Coll. Lib, CUNY, Brooklyn
Kirkus Reviews
A leisurely stroll through the park with some agreeably literary companionship. Though each of the pieces focuses on Central Park, editor and literary agent Blauner (editor: Brothers, 2009, etc.) observes of the millions who consider this their favorite spot in New York, "Ask what all of those people love most about Central Park, and you will almost never get two alike answers. Such is the vastness, the diversity, the wonder of this place that plays so many different roles to so many different kinds of people." Much is made in the selections of the diversity of people drawn to the park, but the voices selected for inclusion make it read something like a special issue of the New Yorker (which has published many of these writers). More than a third of the pieces were previously published, including an excerpt from a novel by Paul Auster, a fable about "The Sixth Borough" by Jonathan Safran Foer, a letter from Wall Street Journal columnist Marie Winn to Holden Caulfield and the title essay from Colson Whitehead's The Colossus of New York. As the writing ranges over decades as well as acres, many of the writers see the park as a microcosm of the city. Adam Gopnik notes, "There is always a new New York coming into being as the old one disappears." Safran Foer: "It's hard for anyone, even the most cynical of cynics, to spend more than a few minutes in Central Park without feeling that he or she is experiencing some tense in addition to the present." There are repeated references to the zoo, to Jackie Onassis jogging, various sports and the occasional mugging, but there are also celebrations of the park as a cultural hub as well as a natural resource. One of the most incisive observations is secondhand, by Andy Warhol as conveyed by Susan Cheever: "It was better to live in the city than the country because in the city he could find a little bit of country, but in the country there was no little bit of city." A good anthology for an afternoon's reading in the park.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781608196005
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
  • Publication date: 4/24/2012
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 618,225
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Andrew Blauner

Andrew Blauner is the founder of Blauner Books Literary Agency. He is the editor of two previous anthologies, Coach, with over fifty thousand copies sold, and Brothers, a finalist for the Books for a Better Life Award. He is also the co-editor of Anatomy of Baseball. Blauner graduated from Collegiate School, Brown University and Columbia Business School, and he is a member of PEN and the National Book Critics Circle. He grew up, and has lived most of his life, within two blocks of Central Park.

Adrian Benepe has worked for more than thirty-two years protecting and enhancing New York City’s natural and historic beauty. He has continued this effort as commissioner of the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation, appointed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2002.

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Table of Contents

Introduction Adrian Benepe 1

The Meadow John Burnham 14

Goodnight Moon Schwartz BenDolnick 26

Through the Children's Gate Adam Gopnik 38

Framed in Silver Mark Helprin 45

Carp in the Park David Michaelis 53

The Colossus of New York Colson Whitehead 64

Some Music in the Park Francine Prose 72

The Sixth Borough Jonathan Safran Foer 79

Squawkeye and Gang on the Dendur Plateau Nathaniel Rich 88

Fogg in the Park Paul Auster 97

Sunday in the Park with Mother Susan Sheehan 110

Negative Space Thomas Beller 119

The Hidden Life Alec Wilkinson 136

My Little Bit of Country Susan Cheever 145

The Falconer of Central Park Donald Knowler 153

About Those Ducks, Holden Marie Winn 169

Lions and Tigers and Bears Bill Buford 174

Beastie Brooks Hansen 188

The Goodbye Buzz Bissinger 201

Epilogue Doug Blonsky 211

Editor's Note 215

About the Contributors 217

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 16, 2012

    Excellent!!!

    If interested in learning the numerous experiences behind NYC's Central Park or just looking for a good read, Central Park is a great anthology for readers everywhere. Filled with both joy and sadness, this anthology is sure to find a special place in the hearts of frequent Park visitors and prospective visitors alike.

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