The Last Bohemia: Scenes from the Life of Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Robert Anasi. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $15 trade paper (240p) ISBN 978-0-374-53331-1
The eternal clash between authenticity, art, and real estate development shapes this bittersweet memoir of New York’s most tragically hip neighborhood. Anasi witnessed Williamsburg’s progress in the 1990s and 2000s from crime-ridden working-class neighborhood overshadowed by crumbling factories—his explorations of the decrepit industrial waterfront are one of the books greatest pleasures—to edgy arts scene and hipster mecca to end-stage self-parody as an unaffordably upscale “Bohemian theme park,” sprouting sterile luxury condos where picturesque ruins once stirred the soul. It’s also the story of Anasi’s own literary ambitions and tinged with nostalgia along with the usual antibourgeois posturing against gentrification. Fortunately, Anasi keeps the focus on an immersive account of the feel and look of the early neighborhood with sharply drawn, novelistic profiles of Williamsburg’s original denizens and landscapes: pioneering artists, ghetto entrepreneurs, teen heroin addicts, grungy cocaine bars, and the complex ecosystem of the neighborhood cafe. There’s color and romance in his portrait of the avant-garde, but he takes seriously the creative labor of artists, writers and—gulp—erotic circus performers as they hone their craft and their vision. His clear-eyed, heartfelt elegy shows why a Williamsburg—free, fecund, gloriously threadbare—is so vital to the culture. (Aug. 14)
Reviewed on: 05/21/2012
Release date: 08/07/2012
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Open Ebook - 240 pages - 978-1-4668-0255-1
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