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The Village: 400 Years of Beats and Bohemians, Radicals and Rogues, a History of Greenwich Village
     

The Village: 400 Years of Beats and Bohemians, Radicals and Rogues, a History of Greenwich Village

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by John Strausbaugh
 

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Cultural commentator John Strausbaugh's The Village is the first complete history of Greenwich Village, the prodigiously influential and infamous New York City neighborhood.
 
From the Dutch settlers and Washington Square patricians, to the Triangle Shirtwaist fire and Prohibition-era speakeasies; from Abstract Expressionism and beatniks, to

Overview

Cultural commentator John Strausbaugh's The Village is the first complete history of Greenwich Village, the prodigiously influential and infamous New York City neighborhood.
 
From the Dutch settlers and Washington Square patricians, to the Triangle Shirtwaist fire and Prohibition-era speakeasies; from Abstract Expressionism and beatniks, to Stonewall and AIDS, the connecting narratives of The Village tell the story of America itself.
 
Illustrated with historic black-and-white photographs, The Village features lively, well-researched profiles of many of the people who made Greenwich Village famous, including Thomas Paine, Walt Whitman, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Mark Twain, Margaret Sanger, Eugene O’Neill, Marcel Duchamp, Upton Sinclair, Willa Cather, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Jackson Pollock, Anais Nin, Edward Albee, Charlie Parker, W. H. Auden, Woody Guthrie, James Baldwin, Maurice Sendak, E. E. Cummings, and Bob Dylan.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times - Sam Roberts
…a buoyant, 600-page romp through the neighborhood's countercultural history.
The Washington Post - Michael Dirda
If nothing else, the book represents an enormous amount of research and provides hours of entertaining reading.
The New York Times Book Review - Ada Calhoun
Strausbaugh…turns a collection of stories and profiles into something less like a textbook than a party spinning happily out of control. Pushing off in 1640, Strausbaugh marshals archives, the Village's artistic output and interviews with members of several key scenes…to tell the story of the area's four centuries as a counterculture mecca. He calls the neighborhood "a culture engine—a zone that attracts and nurtures creative people, radicals, visionaries, misfits, life adventurers." He makes a convincing and frequently delightful case.
Publishers Weekly
In this sprawling, crowded, biography on one of New York City's more alluring and storied neighborhoods, former New York Times commentator Strausbaugh traces the history of Greenwich Village from its beginning as bucolic countryside to its current incarnation as both tourist destination and astringent residence for the elite. In between, Strausbaugh introduces a dizzying array of historical figures and events so salacious the book reads more like one long gossip column full of sex, drugs, alcohol, violence, art, music, the mob, and more. None of this is a bad thing; for long stretches, the pages practically turn themselves. Along the way, readers are fed fascinating little tidbits and images: Washington Square Park as a boggy mass grave site for the city's paupers and Yellow fever victims, the poet Edna St. Vincent Millay and her sister Norma teaching themselves to swear while darning socks, a drunk Jackson Pollock's frequent violent outbursts at the Cedar Street Tavern, and much, much more. No citation will do the book justice; it deserves to be read while walking below 14th Street silently mourning the loss of a neighborhood that has given so much by way of art and culture. (Apr.)
Kirkus Reviews
The author of Sissy Nation: How America Became a Nation of Wimps and Stoopits (2008) and other cultural criticisms and histories returns with a long, loving and thoroughly researched look at what he calls "a zone of rogues and outcasts from the start." Strausbaugh begins his chronological Village tour in the 17th century, when the Indians, Dutch and English were contesting for Manhattan. But once might prevailed, the area--which was indeed once a separate village--evolved initially in the post-Revolutionary era as something fairly upscale: summer retreats for the wealthy. Later, Paine and Poe were there, as was Walt Whitman, who took Emerson for a drink at Pfaff's. As the decades proceeded, the author necessarily focuses on key individuals, events and places. The many African-Americans who once lived there emigrated to Harlem; the 1911 Triangle fire propelled social change; liberals and radicals arrived, including Lincoln Steffens and Emma Goldman. Writers and artists proliferated, and soon it was a hotbed for small theater productions. Susan Glaspell and Eugene O'Neill mounted early shows there; later came Albee and Shepard. Publications and publishers came, too--The Little Review, Village Voice, Evergreen Review, Grove Press. Strausbaugh charts the music history of the area, from jazz to folk (Bob Dylan will not like his portrait here) to rock. Early and/or sordid death is a theme--from Phil Ochs and Dave Van Ronk to Lenny Bruce. The author spends a lot of time on the emergence of the Village as a battleground for the LGBT communities--from actual clashes (Stonewall) to the desperation of AIDS. He seems saddened by the gentrification of the Village--at the impossible prices and rents that exclude the creative and contentious bohemians of yesteryear. Fine social history humanized with a sort of paradise-lost wistfulness.
Kurt Andersen
“Strausbaugh has produced the definitive history of America’s bohemian wellspring and prototypical modern neighborhood with all the verve and fun and rigor it deserves.”
Teresa Carpenter
“A great, sprawling saga of genius and vice in New York City’s Greenwich Village. John Strausbaugh captures Bohemia at its best and level worst, reminding us why we love this place. His account is breathtaking.”
Michael Lesy
“The very best kind of cultural history: Literate, lucid, erudite, and entertaining.”
Library Journal
More than a geographical location, New York City's Greenwich Village represents a state of mind—one generally associated with creativity, rebellion, and bohemianism. In this sweeping study, Strausbaugh (Black Like You) acknowledges these themes as he traces the history of the Village from its early settlement in the 1600s to the present day. He examines its role in the arts within the context of broader issues and periods such as Prohibition, World War II, McCarthyism, organized crime, and gay liberation. Among the writers, artists, and musicians discussed are Amy Lowell, Maxwell Bodenheim, Norman Mailer, Allen Ginsberg, Jackson Pollock, Larry Rivers, Charlie Parker, Bob Dylan, and Edward Albee; portraits from other walks of life include Vincent "Chin" Giganti, Ed Koch, and Jane Jacobs. It is the greater emphasis on political and sociological issues as well as a wider time frame that sets this book apart from earlier works such as Ross Wetzsteon's Republic of Dreams: Greenwich Village; The American Bohemia, 1910–1960. VERDICT The most comprehensive, up-to-date history of Greenwich Village, this book will appeal to a wide audience, particularly those interested in an interdisciplinary approach to the subject.—William Gargan, Brooklyn Coll. Lib., CUNY

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780062078193
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
04/09/2013
Pages:
624
Sales rank:
730,382
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.90(d)

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What People are Saying About This

Kurt Andersen

“Strausbaugh has produced the definitive history of America’s bohemian wellspring and prototypical modern neighborhood with all the verve and fun and rigor it deserves.”

Michael Lesy

“The very best kind of cultural history: Literate, lucid, erudite, and entertaining.”

Teresa Carpenter

“A great, sprawling saga of genius and vice in New York City’s Greenwich Village. John Strausbaugh captures Bohemia at its best and level worst, reminding us why we love this place. His account is breathtaking.”

Meet the Author

John Strausbaugh covered downtown Manhattan history and culture as a writer and editor for the weekly New York Press from 1988 through 2002. For the New York Times he wrote and hosted the "Weekend Explorer" series of articles, videos, and podcasts on New York City history. He has also written for the Washington Post, NPR, and PBS. His previous books include E: Reflections on the Birth of the Elvis Faith, Rock 'Til You Drop, and Black Like You. A former resident of Greenwich Village, the Lower East Side, and Hell's Kitchen, he now lives in Brooklyn Heights.

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The Village: 400 Years of Beats and Bohemians, Radicals and Rogues, a History of Greenwich Village 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Aubrey-Lawrence More than 1 year ago
The Village shows, in the wild, serious, explosive actions and recollections of it's characters, the boiling-over-the-brim story of a cultural engine in flux. Everyone involved, the criminals, the bohemians, the radicals, the artists, politicians and writers  (and most seem to belong in several categories) seems to be living each day as his/her last, even as they careen towards destruction. The book is filled with intimate reflections by famous, (Dylan, Kerouac,  Duchamp, Goldman, Le Roi, Hendrix and many others), and equally fascinating, but not so famous insiders. It's all the great stuff that, even if you know the Village, you've never read or heard anywhere before. I was taken in by the easy style of the writing and intoxicated by the  feeling of always being there, in the scene, no matter when the events and conversations occurred. Unlike most non-fiction that covers so long a time-span, the context is always lovingly created, so that one might fall into it and absorb the rich stories it's characters have to tell. But there is not a wasted word, so the 550 or so pages read very fast.  The Village is history at its most provocative best, with all the excitement, inspiration and yearning that fiction can only hope to emulate.