Low Life: Lures and Snares of Old New York

Low Life: Lures and Snares of Old New York

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by Luc Sante
     
 

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Luc Sante's Low Life is a portrait of America's greatest city, the riotous and anarchic breeding ground of modernity. This is not the familiar saga of mansions, avenues, and robber barons, but the messy, turbulent story of the city's slums and teeming streets, scenes of innumerable cons and crimes, whose cramped and overcrowded housing is still a prominent feature of…  See more details below

Overview

Luc Sante's Low Life is a portrait of America's greatest city, the riotous and anarchic breeding ground of modernity. This is not the familiar saga of mansions, avenues, and robber barons, but the messy, turbulent story of the city's slums and teeming streets, scenes of innumerable cons and crimes, whose cramped and overcrowded housing is still a prominent feature of the cityscape. Low Life voyages through Manhattan from four different directions. Part One examines the topography of Manhattan from 1840 to 1919; Part Two explores the era's opportunities for vice and entertainment -- theaters and saloons, opium and cocaine dens, gambling and prostitution; Part Three investigates the forces of law and order, which did and didn't work to contain the illegalities; Part Four juxtaposes the city's periods of revolt and idealism against its everyday reality. Low Life provides an arresting and entertaining view of what New York was reaily like in its salad days. But it's more than simply a book about New York. It's one of the most provocative books about urban life ever written -- an evocation of the mythology of the quintessential modern metropolis that has much to say, not only about New York's past, but also about the present and future of all cities.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In his first book, freelance writer Sante tours the underside of Manhattan's underclass circa 1840-1919. Clarifying his territory, he notes that ``New York is incarnated by Manhattan (the other boroughs . . . are merely adjuncts).'' Sante's bad old days are populated with lethal saloon keepers, thieves, whores, gamblers, pseudo-reformers, Tammany Hall politics, crooked cops et al. Capital of the night is the Bowery, center of the ``sporting life''; bohemia encompasses the likes of short story writer O. Henry, a one-time embezzler from Texas, plus ethnic enclaves (with the Jewish and Slavic bohemians singled out as the most argumentative). East Side, West Side, semi-rural uptown, wide-open downtown, 19th-century Manhattan is presented as the realm of danger and pleasure. ``The city was like this a century ago, and it remains so in the present,'' maintains an author who sees his Manhattan as seamy, seedy and sinister. (Sept.)
Library Journal
The history of New York City (Manhattan Island) is rich and varied--a veritable gold mine for writers interested in exploring some of its darker passages. Sante, Lower East Side resident, became curious about the area's 19th-century tenement buildings and how their early inhabitants lived, traveled, and were entertained. The four sections of this fascinating and thought-provoking book cover the period 1840-1919, and are entitled ``The Landscape'' (streets and buildings); ``Sporting Life'' (theater, saloons, gambling, drugs, prostitution); ``The Arm'' (street gangs, police, and politics); and ``Invisible City'' (orphans, drifters, and ``Bohemians''). New York's dark side is rooted in its past. Areas such as the Bowery owe their unsavory reputations to their colonial beginnings, and the often tawdry ``pop culture'' of today began with Manhattan's 19th-century underclass. This book is as lively and vivid as its subject matter. Highly recommended.-- Howard E. Miller, Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Missouri Lib., St. Louis
From the Publisher

“A cacophonous poem of democracy and greed, like the streets of New York themselves.” —John Vernon, Los Angeles Times Book Review

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780679738763
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
10/01/1992
Series:
Vintage Departures Series
Edition description:
1st Vintage Departures Edition
Pages:
414
Product dimensions:
5.23(w) x 7.99(h) x 0.98(d)

Meet the Author


Luc Sante was born in Verviers, Belgium, and now lives in New York City. He is the author of Evidence, The Factory of Facts, and Walker Evans, and his work has appeared in The New York Review of Books, The New Republic, and Harper's, among other publications. He teaches writing and the history of photography at Bard College.

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