Song of Brooklyn: An Oral History of America's Favorite Borough

Song of Brooklyn: An Oral History of America's Favorite Borough

by Marc Eliot

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The voices of Brooklyn:

“I’m a Brooklyn guy, it’s in my bones and it’s there in Brooklyn. There’s a certain rhythm you get growing up there. Every Brooklyn kid has it. Always on the right beat. The Bronx, no; Queens, you were out of it; but Brooklyn, that was it.”
Mel Brooks, Williamsburg


The voices of Brooklyn:

“I’m a Brooklyn guy, it’s in my bones and it’s there in Brooklyn. There’s a certain rhythm you get growing up there. Every Brooklyn kid has it. Always on the right beat. The Bronx, no; Queens, you were out of it; but Brooklyn, that was it.”
Mel Brooks, Williamsburg

“Everyone got along because we had one major thing that held everyone in Brooklyn…together: the emergence of big-time sports that happened after World War I. You could be an Irishman, an Italian, and a Jew and you could all be in Ebbets Field, sitting together, rooting for the Dodgers.” —Pete Hamill, Park Slope

“I never really saw anyplace in the world as a kid except Brooklyn, so to me Brooklyn was the world. Every avenue was another country. It was a rough place, to be sure. You could say the wrong thing, make the wrong turn and be rubbed or killed, and I guess I was lucky because I had a talent that enabled me to get out . . . A part of me will always be that kid shooting hoops, with a dream in my hand as much as a basketball.”
Stephon Marbury, Coney Island

“Both my parents were hard, hands-on workers, and that was the foundation of everything for me. Their work ethic was just over the top, and as a result of that I worked hard no matter what level job I had in the media. I was that tough Brooklyn girl pushing my way to the front, which eventually became the top. I was never afraid of hard work; I was always a go-getter, and that was something that came directly out of being born in Brooklyn. I cherish that, as I cherish my entire upbringing in Brooklyn.”
Maria Bartiromo, Bay Ridge

A captivating oral portrait of America's favorite borough, in the words of those who know Brooklyn best—Mel Brooks, Spike Lee, Arthur Miller, Joan Rivers, Norman Mailer, Cousin Brucie, Maria Bartiromo, Pete Hamill, and many other current and former inhabitants.

Song of Brooklyn gathers the oral testimony of nearly one hundred Brooklynites past and present, famous and unknown, about a mythic borough that is also an indisputably real place. These witnesses speak eloquently of what it was like back then, when the Dodgers played in Ebbets Field; later, when the borough fell on hard times; and now, when it has come roaring back on the tracks of a real-estate boom, giving it celebrity chic and hipster cred. With this surprising and inspiring renaissance in full swing, the story of Brooklyn is one of the great and still ongoing chapters of the American urban experience, and Song of Brooklyn sings that tune in pitch-perfect key.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

In this nostalgic love song, Eliot (Walt Disney) blends voices of politicos, actors, musicians, writers and business people—strangely, mostly male—to extol the newly hip New York City borough of Brooklyn. "Mama's boy" Neil Sedaka remembers Coney Island in the 1950s as a cozy place. After a decline, the area is being revitalized, with a battle brewing over new development. Spike Lee says that seeing Jackie Robinson play at Ebbets Field was one of the greatest thrills of his life, while contrarian Woody Allen recalls being a Giants fan in the heart of Dodgers territory. Walt Whitman, Arthur Miller and Norman Mailer often wrote about their home turf of Brooklyn, yet contemporary novelist Amy Sohn, a native of Brooklyn Heights, thinks that while there's "kinmanship" among Brooklyn writers today, they are part of the city's larger literary world. Organizing his material by neighborhoods and themes (e.g., music, food), Eliot's done his homework with many original interviews and lists of famous Brooklynites, and the material is diverting, but the work is unfocused and begs to be published as a coffee-table book with lots of photos. (June 10)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Reviews
Too-easy-by-half portrait of New York City's most famous toehold on the mainland. The book is an oral history of a teeming, immigrant-packed American city that looms large in the nation's psyche, but this is no Division Street, and pop biographer Eliot (Jimmy Stewart: A Biography, 2006, etc.) is no Studs Terkel. He begins poorly with a hokey introduction that seems to be trying to set a cliche record in describing just how awesome (AWESOME!) Brooklyn is. The first chapter, on Coney Island, offers little better, as "the cyclonic roller-coaster ride that is Coney Island's future continues to soar and dip." Subsequent, crudely slapped-together sections on Sheepshead Bay, music and Dem Bums (the Dodgers) prompt fears that the entire book is going to be like that. Then, at about the halfway mark, comes a man speaking his mind about Brooklyn: "It's a shit-fuckin'-hole of roaches and rats," he declares before laying into "all of that candy store nostalgia and egg cream crap." Unfortunately, Eliot gives far too much space to that crap, with long-gone-to-Hollywood entertainers getting teary-eyed about stickball and tenements and dear old Mom. Finally, in the book's second half, he starts to include occasional voices of dissent speaking unpalatable truths. Acknowledging the borough's racism, a rabbi talks about how an entire block would shift from white to black within a month. Blunt recollections of gang violence dispel the impression conveyed earlier that it somehow didn't exist back in the Good Old Days. There's some sadness here, and a more hard-hitting type of nostalgia: not for the old days of the Dodgers and trolley cars, but for a time when neighborhoods of different ethnicities stillinteracted out of necessity. Brooklyn comes across in the end as a crowded, sprawling, beautiful, ugly dream of a place that people can't wait to get out of and then spend the rest of their lives unable to forget. A sappily sentimental but nevertheless vital look at America's neighborhood. Agent: Mel Berger/William Morris Agency

Product Details

Crown Publishing Group
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.50(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.20(d)

Meet the Author

MARC ELIOT is the New York Times bestselling author of more than a dozen books on popular culture, among them the highly acclaimed biography Cary Grant; the award-winning Walt Disney: Hollywood's Dark Prince; Down 42nd Street; and Death of a Rebel. He has written for numerous publications, including L.A. Weekly and California magazine. He divides his time among New York City; Woodstock, New York; and Los Angeles, California.

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