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Flophouse: Life on the Bowery Hardcover – August 15, 2000

ISBN-13: 978-0375503221 ISBN-10: 0375503226 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1 edition (August 15, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375503226
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375503221
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 8 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,406,155 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

From the late 19th century to the middle of the 20th century, nearly 100,000 men found shelter each night in places with names like the Dandy, the Niagara, the Palace, and the Grand Windsor Hotel. These lodging houses, located in the infamous skid row known as the Bowery, are almost gone now, but those that remain provide a fascinating view of old New York and a vanishing era. Isay, an award-winning radio documentary producer, and Wang, a professional photographer, have captured this world in Flophouse. To present the story of this neglected population, the authors interviewed a number of residents in each of four remaining "flops." Each short narrative is told in the resident's own words and is accompanied by one or two full-page photographs. These are stories of immigrants, drug addicts, and men who are just down on their luck. There's John, who gets up every night at three in the morning to bleach his floor; Jack, who's been shooting dice for over 50 years; and Ted, the intellectual dishwasher, who set out to be nothing and succeeded. This compelling read is recommended for all libraries.
-DDeborah Bigelow, Leonia P.L., NJ
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review


"This book should be required reading in every home across the country. It tells of the lost ones, the forgotten men who have given up on the American dream, and once we enter their crumbling, derelict world, our own world will never look the same to us again. Harvey Wang's photographs are superbly honest and raw. The testimonies gathered by David Isay and Stacy Abramson are little poems of desolation, vast hymns to the paradoxes of the human heart." --Paul Auster

"This book takes you to places you think you don't want to enter, to people you think you don't want to meet, to lives you think you don't want to live. And makes you rethink all your assumptions. It reveals the tremendous strength and humanity of those who are usually ignored. And as you pay attention, your humanity expands."
         -- Susan Stamberg, Special Correspondent, National Public Radio

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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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See all 21 customer reviews
It is hard to leave a book like this one unaffected.
Todd Hampton
Like Ghosts of Xmas Future, Isay & Abramson's work shouts at us not to let this life become an alternative for our fellow human beings.
Yasha's Mom
An excellent glimpse inside four of the colorful flophouse hotels along the Bowery.
SidewalkPhotographer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Michelle Blankenship on August 23, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I just bought a copy of this book last night after attending a reading with the authors and photographer, along with some of the men who are profiled in the book. This book is so touching and achingly beautiful. It reads like poetry. The words of the men themselves are printed alongside poignant photographs that seem to capture the sentiment of their words. I feel honored to have met some of these men in person and even more honored to have had the pleasure of asking them to autograph their individual pages. The title of my review here is what one of the men, Bruce, wrote to me last night.
To be able to put a voice and a human face to those who have likely seen the best and the worst of life is a gift to all thinking and compassionate people. This book proves that every person has a story to tell and if the words don't quite express it, the photos do.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 19, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Flophouse gives America a rare glimpse into the underbelly of the American Dream. With photos and personal interviews of 50 residents of genuine Bowery flophouses this book reveals the raw grittiness and humanity of those at the bottom of American society. So often politicians and other such moral crusaders seek to demonize those on drugs and welfare. The real story why these men have fallen into the abyss is often more complicated than simple explantions provide. The story of these men asks each of us to re-examine our beliefs about the least among us. I should know-I live among them and am featured in the book with my bicycle. Many of you who read this are but a few paychecks away from similar circumstances. I encourage you to buy this book and keep it as a reminder to save every dollar you can in a 401K-lest you spend your last days in a Bowery Flophouse!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Yasha's Mom on November 2, 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought my 1st copy of this numbing book immediately after seeing Isay & Abramson interviewed on C-Span Booknotes. Since then, I've ordered 6 more copies for others. Mandatory reading! The forbidden journey through the fragile cubicles of the flop houses is an eerie dream where life's faceless are given faces, the nameless names, and the definitions of hope and hopelessness take on new dimensions. Isay & Abramson highlight the great talent and intellect of so many who have lost their way, reminding us that there, but for the Grace of God, go we. But with poignance and artistry they also show the consequenses of hope lost. Like Ghosts of Xmas Future, Isay & Abramson's work shouts at us not to let this life become an alternative for our fellow human beings. Brava!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A. Ort on June 16, 2002
Format: Hardcover
The reason we are so drawn to (and, in the same breath, repulsed by) books such as this one is that they show us the truth that is locked up inside of us. They present a side of reality many do not see in pursuit of the paycheck running from the fears presented in this book. And, yes, the reasons why they are at the 'flophouse' is infinitely complicated.
The photos are stunning and the stories are minimalist which has a gripping effect. The photos and the stories open up a world that is almost mythical. Penetrating is the word that comes to mind.
Study them, feel them, connect with them, learn to love them. But do not judge them and do not run from them. Hold onto them and, in the midst of our bustle and struggle, keep them dear in our hearts. And, if one is so compelled reach out, not as veoyeurs, but with compassion, sharing with, realizing that our human wholeness is dependent upon such individuals as these whose lives may be unlike anything we could imagine.
For only when we are willing to get 'real' and walk in the valley of the shadow of death, and this with others, can we ever really become human. These characters are but a shadow of aspects of our own selves.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Callie A. Collins on February 3, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Turn away. Turn quickly away. My first instinct upon glancing at this title was consistent with Middle Class America's natural reaction to social despair. Cautiously intrigued, I reached to the top shelf in my suburban neighborhood's local library, and pulled down into my comfortable suburban world an enlightening pictorial in brief. With mixed horror and wonder, increasingly awed at these victims of circumstances, reading "Flophouse: Life on the Bowery" was a real look, a first look, into sunken faces and disheveled lives. Black and white photos say the thousand words their subjects never will. The human condition, bare, innate, is plainly presented without pretense or censoring. How very similar, how frighteningly normal, were the lives of these men before the loss of job, wife, or sanity deposited them here, teetering on the brink between life and death, heaven and hell, New York City's Bowery. Read this book, count your blessings and your spare dimes.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By David Kleist on December 28, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This strikingly beautiful book of photos of the destitute is filled with stories of talented, gifted, intelligent men who through poor fortune, poor choices, poor health, or all of the above, ended up in one of the few remaining Bowery flophouses.
They could be us. The line between the secure and the destitute is nowhere made more clear than in this stunning, frightening, profound book. Every citizen of America should be required to read it.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Todd Hampton on October 26, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Flophouse is a collections of pictures and words by and about people (mostly men) who ive in the dwingling number of flop houses on the bowery in New York. There are some 50 or so snapshots of these man the spread throughout four hotels, The white house, the providence, the andrews and the sunshine hotel. Don't let the names of these hotels fool you they're no four seasons. The men come from various races, creeds and generations. Some are old men who've lived on the bowery for tens of years and don't want to live to younger men who have hit rock bottom and are trying to get back on their feel again. Each man featured tells his own story about how they got to the bowery. Most of their stories are sobering and the pictures are even more powerful. Many of these men were woking productive members of society until something happened to them to throw them off track. It is hard to leave a book like this one unaffected. If your only opinion of the homeless and destitute is that they are lazy, mentally deranged or drug addicted men this book may change your perceptions. I left this book feeling very somber about how fragile life is and how easily it can be taken for granted yet also feeling uplifted in a strange way. Many of these man despite their conditions still continue to keep on living their lives and keeping a postive attitude. The men in flophouse are a dying breed of america's growing underclass.
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