New York in the 50s
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New York in the 50s [Hardcover]

Dan Wakefield
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 1992
A look back at the New York City during the 1950s explores the tastes, politics, and culture of the era, discussing free love, jazz, radical politics, Spanish Harlem, psychoanalysis, Mailer, Joan Didion, Talese, Trillin, Ginsberg, Kerouac, and more. 15,000 first printing.

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

While Allen Ginsberg howled that the best minds of his generation were being destroyed by madness, Wakefield, who lived in the same town, was high on just being there, on making it as a freelance writer if not yet as a novelist, on the camaraderie he found in Greenwich Village, on hanging around with James Baldwin, Vance Bourjaily, Norman Mailer, Seymour Krim, John Gregory Dunne, Gay Talese, William Buckley and other "writer writers" who would later become our eminences grises of letters. Wakefield had fled Indianapolis in 1952 to study at Columbia; yet eight years later, "all scratched out," he would flee New York City--and end up in Boston, permanently. This is his memoir of '50s Manhattan, a charmed, gentle, evocative re-creation of a time when sex was more talked about than done (and when done, was done in secret), a time when psychoanalysis was hailed as the new religion, booze was the soporific, Esquire and the Village Voice the journalistic pacesetters, jazz the music. Then the atmosphere changed: McCarthyism hovered, Timothy Leary came around with the "cure-all elixir" psilocybin, the Beatles landed. Wakefield, whose novels include Home Free , has written his generation's kinder-spirited Moveable Feast , marking his era as a cultural divide.Litterateurs will treasure the book. So will aspirants. Photos not seen by PW .
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

When Wakefield came to New York in 1952 to attend Columbia, the city more than fulfilled his dreams. Over the next 11 years, he finished his degree, began a promising career as a freelance journalist, and made friends with such interesting and diverse people as C. Wright Mills, William F. Buckley Jr., Allen Ginsberg, Norman Podhoretz, James Baldwin, and Norman Mailer. He heard the Clancy Brothers at the White Horse Tavern, Thelonious Monk at the Five Spot, and Jack Kerouac at the Vanguard. He comments here on some of the era's most vital issues, including McCarthyism, civil rights, and psychoanalysis, corroborating his own experience with recollections by Meg Greenfield, Joan Didion, Gay Talese, and others who were on the scene. Wakefield's celebratory memoir, tinged with nostalgia, is highly recommended.
- William Gargan, Brooklyn Coll. Lib., CUNY
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 355 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin (T); First Edition edition (May 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0395513200
  • ISBN-13: 978-0395513200
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.1 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #711,857 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful memoir December 31, 2006
I loved this book! Then again I loved "Wonderful Town," and "Manhattan." I was born in New York, and remember sneaking away to take the subway from the Bronx at age 8 in 1950 to catch glimpses of the glittery awesomeness of Manhattan. Leaving New York in 1954, I returned as an adult much later and made friends who had been part of the dizzying scene of the fifties ...intellectuals, bohemians. Reading this book so vividly recreates an era that, as the cliche says, will be no more. Perched between the Gotham of the 1930's, the art deco towers, the Met, the Frick, and the Space Age of the 1960's there was a post-war mecca for the arts and letters. New York was the center of it all. I have no idea how this book will be perceived by those who have not experienced this period, at least in some way. Perhaps that is the story of some of the reviewers who didn't like it. But for me, the book is like candy.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars When the written word mattered... July 18, 2003
By A Customer
I found this book inspiring, funny, and beautifully written. It carried me to a time, before cell phones, the internet, dvds and instant communications, when the written word mattered, when books and magazines and letters were greeted with high anticipation and made a difference in people's lives. When books mattered, ideas mattered, friendships were the stuff of life, and art was not only a creative expression but an affirmation, a challenge to take the high road, to live life to the fullest. This book will put zest in your soul. I recommend it highly.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible And Moving Memoir! April 15, 1999
By A Customer
Although I was too young to experience New York In The 50s from a first-hand account, this book made me feel as if I was actually there. I applaud Wakefield for writing one of the best memoirs that I've ever had the pleasure of reading.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dreamy September 23, 2007
Evocative portrait of Manhattan by a novelist from Indiana who was enthralled by big city life when the Beats were roaming the Village and booze was the drug of choice. Wakefield smartly divides his book into chapters on subjects like jazz, analysis and his ever-present literary ambitions. The nostalgia makes one yearn for the NYC recreated here when living there was affordable for almost anyone.
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12 of 17 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Lots of name dropping but little else... July 20, 1999
By A Customer
Although younger than Wakefield, I was around NYC, especially the Village, in the '50s & I was really looking forward to "looking back" at a unique time & place. This book was a real disappointment, unfortunately, with little more to offer than big (& not so big) names & parties. I found it very superficial & self-promoting, in effect light weight *gossip*, which in the end is very shrewd on the part of author & publisher, but oh so cynical.
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