Hubert's Freaks: The Rare-Book Dealer, the Times Square Talker, and the Lost Photos of Diane Arbus

Gregory Gibson, Author
Gregory Gibson, Author . Harcourt $24 (274p) ISBN 978-0-15-101233-6
Reviewed on: 01/14/2008
Release date: 04/01/2008
Paperback - 282 pages - 978-0-15-603308-4
Open Ebook - 288 pages - 978-0-547-54044-3
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From the late 1950s until her death in 1971, renowned photographer Diane Arbus took pictures of oddball performers at the now-forgotten Hubert's Museum, a typical freak show in New York City's seedy Times Square. One frequent subject was Charlie Lucas, first a “freak” himself, later an “inside talker.” In 2003, Bob Langmuir, an anxiety-ridden, pill-popping, obsessive antiquarian book dealer from Philadelphia, unearthed a collection of photographs and memorabilia, including Lucas's journals and what he thought were Arbus's photos. This trove of genuine American kookiness came to dominate his life. Following Langmuir's quest—from the slums of Philadelphia to the halls of the Metropolitan Museum of Art—as he gathered, priced and ultimately came to understand this collection, author Gibson (Gone Boy: A Walkabout ), himself an antiquarian book dealer, effortlessly twists these strands together with an emotional wallop. “His toil in Hubert's vineyard,” Gibson writes of Langmuir, “amounted to no more or less than the continuing archaeology of the old, weird America.” Gibson's laser focus on Langmuir's shifting state of mind as he struggles to master his personal demons and navigate the pitfalls of his own obsession gives this story its heart and opens a window onto a lost part of the American soul. 21 b&w photos. (Apr.)

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