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Kevin Baker's Dreamland is the kind of novel that begins with a two-page list of characters and ends with a nine-page glossary. In between, this vast, sprawling carnival of a book takes in Coney Island and the Lower East Side, midgets and gangsters, Bowery bars and opium dens, even Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. It is, in short, a novel as big, lively, and ambitious as Gotham itself, and if you can stomach some of the more garish local color, it's every bit as much fun. Set at the turn of the century, in a New York as polyglot as any city on earth, Dreamland opens with an act of misplaced--and very stupid--compassion. Eastern European immigrant Kid Twist intervenes when villainous gangster Gyp the Blood is on the verge of murdering a young newsboy for sport. But surprise: that's no street urchin--that's Trick the Dwarf, self-proclaimed Mayor of Little City and a Coney Island tout, who dresses up as a boy, he says, as "a way I had of leaving myself behind." Trick hides Kid Twist in the hind parts of the Tin Elephant Hotel; Kid Twist meets Esther Abramowitz, impoverished seamstress and labor agitator, then falls in love; Trick woos Mad Carlotta, a three-foot beauty who thinks she's the Empress of Mexico; and Freud and Jung sail for America, where they squabble about psychoanalysis. There are also a few subplots involving police corruption, Tammany Hall, and the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire--but who's counting? Suffice to say that it all really does come together in the end, and you won't be bored for one step of the way. Baker served as chief historical researcher for Harold Evans's The American Century, and it's clear that he put his time there to good use; Dreamland is full of vivid historical detail, from Lower East Side slang to the lyrics of popular songs. If this is middlebrow entertainment, it's middlebrow in the same way as Dickens: extravagantly plotted, elegantly written, and compassionate to the core. --Mary Park --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Taking place in turn-of-the-century New York City, Baker's splashy novel features gangsters, midgets, feminist strikers, the Lower East Side, Coney Island, Freud's trip to America and the infamous Triangle Factory fire. It's a powerful, deeply moving epic, an earthier, rowdier, more inclusive Ragtime that rings beautiful changes on the familiar themes of the immigrant experience and the unfulfilled promise of the American Dream. Baker juggles subplots that reflect different ethnic and cultural realities: resilient, independent-minded sweatshop seamstress Esther Abramowitz rebels against her caustic Russian-Jewish ex-rabbi father to become a union organizer; Irish-American state senator Big Tim Sullivan, a corrupt Tammany Hall boss, rules the city through bribes, gangs and cops on the take; hoodlum Gyp the Blood (aka Lazar Abramowitz), who is Esther's estranged brother, puts out a hit on her boyfriend, Kid Twist (Josef Kolyika), an Eastern European refugee who arrived as a stowaway on the same ocean liner that, in this scenario, brings Freud and Jung to New York on a trip to promote psychoanalysis. Meanwhile, over in Dreamland, the vast Coney Island amusement park, the philosophically minded Trick the Dwarf courts another sideshow attraction, Mad Carlotta, a midget who thinks she's the Empress of Mexico. Baker, author of the baseball novel Sometimes You See It Coming and chief researcher on Harry Evans's The American Century, gives readers amazingly vivid renderings of the criminal underworld, prostitution, machine politics, Jewish immigrant life, the nascent women's rights and labor movements. Cultured Old World elitism comically collides with raucous democratic America as Freud gets lost in Harlem, has bizarre erotic dreams, falls out with Jung and has a nasty adventure in Dreamland. The churning subplots do get creaky (e.g., Esther's implausible love for a gangster), the colorful seediness often seems like gratuitous crowd-pleasing and the novel walks a tightrope between romantic sentimental fantasy and hard-boiled realism. Nevertheless, one is tempted to call this grandly entertaining saga some kind of populist masterpiece, as Baker gauges the myth of the egalitarian American melting-pot against the corruption, economic exploitation and racism of a cutthroat society. 100,000 first printing; $300,000 ad/promo; audio to HarperAudio; author tour.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Right there with Paradise Alley, even better in my opinion. Thoroughly researched, excellent characters, well written and engaging. Read morePublished 11 months ago by Phil Normand
A brutal, raw book not for the faint of heart! Excellent writer.Published 11 months ago by Glitterbug
This book provides a very vivid portrait of life in the "demimonde" of turn of the 20th century New York. Read morePublished 14 months ago by Paul
Normily I love long books but this one had too many things that I think should have been let out. For instance the chapters on Freud and Jung. Read morePublished 15 months ago by Kindle Customer
I don't know how most of the immigrants made it in this country as it was hard beyond one's imagination, but I suppose where they came from was even worse. Read morePublished 19 months ago by Willa Riggs