Poetic Explorations of American Culture, History, Race, and the Downsides of NYC

Book review: Notes from No Man’s Land, by Eula Biss I discovered Eula Biss’s confrontational but melodic, intelligent and analytical writing in the collection Tales of Two Americas. It’s a great collection of essays, stories, and poems all dealing somehow with various aspects of American inequality. She contributed a piece about the concept of white debt, and how it’s not something that can be repaid simply by saying … Continue reading Poetic Explorations of American Culture, History, Race, and the Downsides of NYC

A Modern Classic on the Surreality of Mourning

Book review: The Year of Magical Thinking, by Joan Didion Life changes fast. Life changes in the instant. You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends. The question of self-pity. Those words were the first that Joan Didion wrote after her husband’s death. In case you’ve never heard of it, The Year of Magical Thinking is journalistic legend Didion’s highly praised, often stream of consciousness-style literary … Continue reading A Modern Classic on the Surreality of Mourning

Inside a Manhattan New Age Cult

Book review: The Cult Next Door, by Elizabeth Burchard When cults make the news, it’s often because they’ve done something awful on a compound somewhere, or in the jungles of Guyana. This memoir shows the mesmerizing power of a cult close to home, one that forms in the heart of a major metropolis, in one of Manhattan’s poshest neighborhoods, and for decades ensnared members in a cycle of brainwashing, … Continue reading Inside a Manhattan New Age Cult

A Memoir of Murder and the Male Gaze

Book review: The Hot One, by Carolyn Murnick New York magazine editor Carolyn Murnick was childhood best friends with Ashley Ellerin, growing up in suburban New Jersey. Attending different high schools, then Ashley’s relocation to her home state of California, the friendship began developing the natural divide that accompanies growing up and apart. But unlike many similar friendships, the two maintain some level of connection, and … Continue reading A Memoir of Murder and the Male Gaze

Musings on Art and Loneliness

Book review: The Lonely City, by Olivia Laing “It was becoming increasingly easy to see how people ended up vanishing in cities, disappearing in plain sight, retreating into their apartments because of sickness or bereavement, mental illness or the persistent, unbearable burden of sadness and shyness, not knowing how to impress themselves into the world.” Olivia Laing unexpectedly became a British expatriate alone in New York City, … Continue reading Musings on Art and Loneliness

Art, Movies, Men, and Manhattan in the 50s

Book review: The Men in My Life by Patricia Bosworth Patricia Bosworth is a biographer, best known for her books on actors and artists like Montgomery Clift and Diana Arbus; her biography on the latter was the basis for the film Fur. But before she became an author and journalist, Bosworth was a model and actress working in 1950s America. It was a very different time, to … Continue reading Art, Movies, Men, and Manhattan in the 50s

Fantasy Born of Tragedy

The Woman Who Wasn’t There: The True Story of an Incredible Deception by Robin Gaby Fisher and Angelo J. Guglielmo, Jr. Some of the most remarkable stories of survival and strength in our country emerged following the tragedy of 9/11. In the days after the attack, Americans and especially New Yorkers worked to support each other in unprecedented ways. One group that remained troubled, beyond any extent … Continue reading Fantasy Born of Tragedy

On Long Island, Victims Are a Long Time Lost

Book review: Lost Girls, by Robert Kolker In the early morning hours of May 1, 2010, Shannan Gilbert, who was working as an escort, took off running into the dark marshland of Oak Beach, a private residential community in Suffolk County, Long Island where she’d had a professional date. Her disappearance was the catalyst for the discovery of what would turn out to be ten murder victims. Some were scattered and … Continue reading On Long Island, Victims Are a Long Time Lost

Biography of a Hospital

Book review: Bellevue, by David Oshinsky Pulitzer-prize winning journalist David Oshinsky writes a comprehensive, readable history of New York City’s legendary public hospital, which along the way becomes a slice of social history of the city itself and an outline of the development of American medical practices as well. The name alone is enough to evoke imagery, associations, some realistic and some fantasy (the name being synonymous, … Continue reading Biography of a Hospital

Catcalls and Coming of Age

Book review: Sex Object, by Jessica Valenti This was my first experience with Jessica Valenti’s writing and I came away from it thinking she was a talented writer but a disorganized storyteller, with an important, worthwhile message but way too little faith in herself. This book could’ve been something very meaningful and impacting, and I’m torn in how to describe it because it’s not that it wasn’t those things, … Continue reading Catcalls and Coming of Age

From Queens with Love

Book review: The Clancys of Queens, by Tara Clancy A fast-paced memoir composed of vignettes of the author’s time growing up with her big Irish-Italian families in Queens. After her parents’ split when she was a toddler, she divides her time between her dad’s tiny but loving boathouse home and bar family in Broad Channel and her mom’s colorful family of loud, cursing Brooklynite Italians, with sojourns … Continue reading From Queens with Love

Observational Humor for Cynics and New Yorkers

Book review: Rules for Others to Live By, by Richard Greenberg These loosely connected (very loosely) essays and comments require a certain dry, dark, cynical sense of humor to really enjoy them. I did enjoy them though, for the most part. The audiences is definitely New Yorkers, and I can imagine these might not find broad appeal outside of a certain set of wry, snarky, mildly … Continue reading Observational Humor for Cynics and New Yorkers