From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. New Yorkers love calamity," writes Hamill in this marvelous guide to the most expensive piece of real estate in the world. This is a look at the calamities—and the successes—that have struck downtown Manhattan since the time of the first explorers from the Old World. Hamill's Manhattan is filled with history, architecture and giant personalities. Readers will be thrust into the Civil War riots in Greenwich Village in 1863 and will rejoice in a Times Square filled with delirious New Yorkers on VJ Day in 1945. They will watch the city grow as the subway crawls northward and the big skyscrapers begin to pop up, from the Woolworth Building in 1913 to the World Trade Center in the 1970s. The city's rogues and heroes are portrayed in action—from Aaron Burr and John Jacob Astor to Stanford White, Walter Winchell and a visiting Oscar Wilde. This is a companion piece to Forever
, Hamill's novel of New York, and The Drinking Life
, which explored the city through the alcohol-fueled eyes of the young Hamill. It is written with insight, humor and, most of all, a deep love of the Big Apple. Perhaps Hamill's mother, Anne Devlin, best put it into perspective: "You've seen it before," she told young Peter the first time he was transfixed by the spires of Gotham. "It's Oz."
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Hamill is an excellent novelist (see in particular Snow in August,
1997), but in his latest book, he wears his hat as one of the last of the old-time newspapermen whose life and work simply define
New York City. He calls this book an "essay . . . based on memory, reporting, and reading." What that amounts to is a delightfully personal, robustly informative portrait of New York, Manhattan in particular (and Lower Manhattan more specifically).Having been in the newspaper biz for four decades, he knows how to keep his eyes and ears open for the good story, the telling detail, and the quirky but exemplary character. As he escorts readers around the island of Manhattan, he takes heavy glances back into history--insisting that New Yorkers constantly experience "aching nostalgia"--as he not so much classifies but revels in the distinctions of NYC both as a "concrete place and as an idea." A marvelous read for anyone who has a hometown. Brad HooperCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved