Literary Brooklyn

The Writers of Brooklyn and the Story of American City Life
Literary Brooklyn: The Writers of Brooklyn and the Story of American City Life. Holt. Aug. 2011. c.352p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780805089868. pap. $17. LIT
In his "hybrid of literary biography, literary analysis, and urban history," Hughes, who lives in Brooklyn, examines writers associated with the borough, including Walt Whitman, Hart Crane, Marianne Moore, Alfred Kazin, Richard Wright, Truman Capote, Arthur Miller, Paul Auster, and many others. Some settled in Brooklyn for cheap rent or to escape the hustle of glittering Manhattan; others, like Brooklyn-born Kazin, viewed the borough as a place to flee from to achieve success. Along with his literary analysis, Hughes notes the impact of historical, economic, and sociological changes in Brooklyn on the authors and their works. He provides the various addresses of the writers as they moved around (map included). The final chapter surveys postgentrification writers, including Edwidge Danticat, Susan Choi, and Rick Moody. What's most surprising is whom Hughes has left out; Betty Smith (A Tree Grows in Brooklyn), Norman Rosten (Under the Boardwalk), and Paule Marshall (Brown Girl, Brownstones) are mentioned only in passing, if at all, although they have a stronger literary connection to Brooklyn than Capote or Wright.
VERDICT A book on this subject is long past due. This one makes a good beginning, but is not the final word. It will be of most interest to readers with a connection to the borough or who are studying the subject.
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