Automotive Holiday Deals Up to 50% Off Select Books Shop Men's Athletic Shoes Learn more nav_sap_SWP_6M_fly_beacon Black Friday egg_2015 All-New Amazon Fire TV Grocery Gifts for Her Amazon Gift Card Offer cm15 cm15 cm15 $30 Off Amazon Echo $30 Off Fire HD 6 Kindle Cyber Monday Deals Holiday Music in CDs & Vinyl Outdoor Deals on Tikes
The Last Bohemia and over one million other books are available for Amazon Kindle. Learn more

Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.

  • Apple
  • Android
  • Windows Phone
  • Android

To get the free app, enter your email address or mobile phone number.

  • List Price: $15.00
  • Save: $1.29 (9%)
FREE Shipping on orders over $35.
Only 10 left in stock (more on the way).
Ships from and sold by Gift-wrap available.
The Last Bohemia: Scenes ... has been added to your Cart
Condition: Used: Like New
Comment: SHIPS DIRECTLY FROM AMAZON. Book is sharp with only minor wear. Has a publisher's remainder mark.
Have one to sell? Sell on Amazon
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See all 3 images

The Last Bohemia: Scenes from the Life of Williamsburg, Brooklyn Paperback – August 7, 2012

20 customer reviews

See all 3 formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
New from Used from
"Please retry"
"Please retry"
$2.45 $0.01

Best Books of the Month
See the Best Books of the Month
Want to know our Editors' picks for the best books of the month? Browse Best Books of the Month, featuring our favorite new books in more than a dozen categories.
$13.71 FREE Shipping on orders over $35. Only 10 left in stock (more on the way). Ships from and sold by Gift-wrap available.

Frequently Bought Together

  • The Last Bohemia: Scenes from the Life of Williamsburg, Brooklyn
  • +
  • Williamsburg  (NY)  (Images of America)
Total price: $31.99
Buy the selected items together

Special Offers and Product Promotions

  • Take an Extra 30% Off Any Book: Use promo code HOLIDAY30 at checkout to get an extra 30% off any book for a limited time. Excludes Kindle eBooks and Audible Audiobooks. Restrictions apply. Learn more | Shop now

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Robert Anasi is the author of The Gloves: A Boxing Chronicle (North Point Press, 2002). He teaches literary journalism at the University of California, Irvine, where he is a Schaeffer and Chancellor's Club fellow. He is also a founding editor of the literary journal Entasis.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Dark City

The explosion cracked the summer evening. Light flash and then smoke rising. Another crack and flash, and another, four in all, shredding air and reverberating in the basin of the empty pool. The two camera people watched, transfixed as the sound claps faded and smoke billowed around them. From somewhere in the cloud, a voice emerged.
You guys shot all that? Great. Let’s get out of here.
The artist stepped out of the cloud.
Pack up your cameras, he said. Come on! We’ve got to move!

In 1990, a young filmmaker named Esther Bell made her first trip to Williamsburg. She’d been hired for a shoot by an artist named Stephen Bennett. All Bennett told her was that he had an art installation in the neighborhood, that it was at a local pool and that they’d need to be careful there. He also paid cash, half in advance. This was more than enough for Esther—for a twenty-year-old scraping by in New York City on odd (sometimes very odd) jobs, any chance to make money with her Super 8 was progress.
Esther had come to New York for the same reason we all did—to get away from somewhere else. For Esther those somewheres were Columbia and Charleston, South Carolina. Even though she’d spent most of her life in South Carolina, she never thought of herself as a Southerner. Her mother, Sharon, was an army brat who grew up at Mark Twain Village in Germany. Sharon was twenty-two and working as a window dresser in Heidelberg when she got pregnant on a romantic Paris trip that didn’t include prophylactics (her eighteen-year-old boyfriend was another window dresser). In a pre–sexual revolution romantic saga, Sharon’s high school sweetheart, Randy Bell, who’d also grown up on the base, found out that Sharon was pregnant. Randy returned to Germany from Harvard Law School and the three young people decided that Sharon should marry Randy and go to America. When Esther was born, Randy put his name on the birth certificate. Nineteen years would pass before she met her biological father, when he visited her in New York with his boyfriend.
Randy Bell’s career took him to South Carolina, where he became legal counsel for the governor and then, at age forty, a justice on the state supreme court. He also suffered from Fabry disease, which killed him at forty-nine. His social standing and his illness, along with his brimstone Southern Baptist heritage, made the household a stifling place. When Esther was fourteen her parents divorced and Sharon moved to Charleston. Esther lived a divided life over the next few years—sharing a rowdy adolescence with her mother in a condemned house in Folly Beach, Charleston, while in Columbia, Anglophile, seersucker-wearing Randy and his new wife tried to mold Esther into a belle.
Esther picked rebellion. Putting out a zine brought her into the indie rock world, and she got to know the bands that passed through Charleston (and managed to keep her cool when Mike Ness from Social Distortion started sucking his own dick during an interview). Music led her to feminism and a style of her own. In her senior year of high school, Judge Bell agreed to pay her college tuition, but there were caveats—it had to be a religious institution, less than $2,000 a year, not in a city, and he would select all her classes. Being a lawyer, he drew up a contract and Esther spent her freshman year at Iona College, a small Catholic school in the Westchester town of New Rochelle. (‘Idiots on North Avenue,’ Esther says. ‘They really were.’) When Randy didn’t hold up his side of the contract and pay the tuition, Esther was set free. She dropped out of Iona and enrolled in City College, smack in the middle of Harlem.
Williamsburg didn’t look anything like New York to Esther, as Bennett led her and a second photographer—this one shooting video—down Bedford Avenue, past a shabby park to a brick castle surrounded by razor wire. Brush brambled the fences and graffiti covered every span of brick. Bennett had carved a way through the obstacles. ‘What he’d done,’ Esther says, ‘was he’d taken a torch and made a hole in the fence.’
They crawled through and Bennett sealed the breach, then hurried them away from the eyes of the street. Inside the walls was a pool like no other Esther had ever seen before. Three regulation Olympic pools laid side by side would have sunk into the McCarren basin, which had a capacity for sixty-eight hundred dripping souls. Neglect had drained the pale blue interior. Debris and filth littered the cracked concrete and a copse grew out of the diving pool.
Six years earlier the Northside fathers had solved their integration woes by breaking the toy rather than sharing it. In Williamsburg, Poles and the Irish, Jews and Italians, could swim together, but when brown people wanted in, the water was drained and the pool closed for good.
This was pre–cell phones, Esther says. And I started thinking about how nobody in the world knew I was there with this strange artist guy.
As she waited near the deep end, she didn’t see anything that looked like an art installation. You couldn’t spook Esther easily—she was fit and brave and German solid, with a defiant mane of bright red hair. Still, she wondered what she would do if something went wrong.
Her anxieties didn’t ease when two disheveled men approached her and the video guy (Bennett had disappeared). They all started talking. The men told Esther that they were Vietnam vets and on their way home from work. Home? Home was under the pool, in a subterranean maze of corridors and pipes. And they weren’t the only people who found the catacombs useful. ‘Sure,’ the vets told Esther. ‘The Mafia dumps bodies down there.’ They claimed to have seen the corpses.
As the sun set the vets moved on and Bennett was still missing. Esther wondered if she would have enough light to shoot the art, whatever it was. She didn’t plan to stick around after dark.
Just then Bennett came running toward them, shouting, ‘Turn your cameras on! Turn your cameras on!’
Before he reached them, there was an explosion. And then another one. Four powerful blasts from the top of the keep that guarded the entrance, brilliant flashes and the smell of powder and gray smoke flowing over them.
Thankfully I had kept my finger on the trigger, Esther says, because it was a huge explosion and scared the shit out of us. The other guy didn’t keep his finger on the trigger, so I was the only one who actually documented it. These weren’t M-80s or firecrackers—the explosions were huge.
When the smoke cleared, Bennett pushed them toward the street. ‘Let’s go! Let’s go! Let’s go!’ They ran to the fence and Bennett closed the gap behind them. As they walked away, angling for invisibility, Esther expected sirens, police cars, fire engines to confront the swimming-pool Armageddon. Instead, there was silence.
It was as if four explosions going off was normal, Esther says. Just another day in Williamsburg.
Bennett would use Esther’s footage in a performance piece at ABC No Rio, a Lower East Side art space. On the train ride back to Manhattan, Esther worried about the effect of the explosions on the vets making dinner in the catacombs.
How decadent, Esther says. That was what I was thinking. How decadent. Here are these guys who need a real home and they’re probably having flashbacks while this guy is making his art show.
*   *   *
Getting off the L at the Bedford stop put you on guard. From First Avenue the train took forever to pass under the tidal strait, too much time to worry about the tons of seawater and mud waiting overhead to crush you. The Bedford station was a bleak hole. The shit-brown paint was cracked and peeling. Rats scurried between the rails and dashed across the platform. Foul water dripped. Upstairs, Bedford Avenue wasn’t any better. At seven p.m. you felt fear in the gloom and rightly so. Old New York hands donned their city armor. The street was quiet but not with the sprinkler hiss of summer lawns: no, Williamsburg was a ghost town. The other folks who got off the subway with you, most of them blue-collar men, hurried down the street, slipped around corners, disappeared. If you were curious, though, if you couldn’t help yourself, you slowed down. You liked the jolt, the city edge; you wanted to see the ruins. Except for the flashing Christmas lights of the Greenpoint Tavern, Bedford Avenue was dark. Shutters masked the storefronts. Some had folding lattice gates instead of metal shutters so you could look inside. Behind the shutters, dust coagulated on display platforms. Merchants had locked their shop doors one day and never come back.
Three guys I knew moved to a Williamsburg loft in the summer of 1988: Stephan Schwinges, Kai Mitchell and Andrew Lichtenstein. They were perfect fodder for a rough neighborhood—young and cocky and willing to live on scraps. Drew and Kai had graduated that spring from Sarah Lawrence College just outside the city, and Stephan was a louche German expat who’d left his homeland under a cloud and bounced from Berlin to London and then to the East Village.
A Mexican American illustrator told Stephan that he was giving up the loft he shared with his wife in Williamsburg, a big space, two thousand–plus square feet for a thousand bucks a month, if Stephan was interested.
Stephan’s response: ‘Where the fuck is Williamsburg?’
But he went out and looked at the loft: two floors on the west side of a warehouse at the corner of Metropolitan and Driggs, right on the border between Northside and South. The back windows looked out onto an even bigger warehouse and a weed-strangled lot. Catty-corner on Driggs was a stoneyard with winches and cables to hoist blocks of marble and granite. An Italian m...
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Hero Quick Promo
Holiday Deals in Kindle Books
Save up to 85% on more than 1,000 Kindle Books. These deals are valid until November 30, 2015. Learn more

Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: FSG Originals (August 7, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374533318
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374533311
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 7.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #250,930 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Discover books, learn about writers, read author blogs, and more.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Uber Reader on August 9, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
As a person who grew up living in Williamsburg Brooklyn, I can really relate to the way Robert Anasi describes the unique rawness of living in Williamsburg in the 80 & 90's had to offer. It was a hidden gem, extremely affordable, close proximity to Manhattan a haven for future artist, yet dark and dangerous at times making you develop a tough thick skin about you. Now with all these new developments and high priced real estate moving in like the Edge, Wholefoods, Duane Reade's, and original burg people like me dodging over crowded Bedford Avenue sidewalks with Yuppy outsider types pushing expensive stollers ready to knock me over in a second, I feel as though Williamsburg is sadly losing its charm and what made it so special. If you want to go back in time, see what care fee living was like living in the Burg before all this gentrification happened then I suggest you read Robert Anasi's The Last Bohemia.
3 Comments Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By robyn on September 18, 2012
Format: Paperback
I'm a third generation Greenpoint/Williamsburg resident and reading this book brought back so many memories. Anasi reiterates the same stories my dad and uncles have told me, and recreated the images that shaped my childhood. To those who said this book is all about drugs, you're mistaken. It was happening, I knew exactly what it meant when I dropped a heroin addled uncle off on Bedford and North 7th in the early 90s. But Anasi also describes the character of the old neighborhood as well, from the industrial landscapes that adorned Williamsburg, to the natives who defined and shaped the neighborhood. With Williamsburg losing more and more of its soul every day, it's wonderful to have that little chunk of remembrance.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By C.F. on September 5, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
Part local history lesson, part cultural study, part memoir, and part savvy street poetry, "The Last Bohemia" covers the neighborhoods and people of Brooklyn's Williamsburg with understanding and generosity without being blind to the dangers and social inequities that author Robert Anasi finds while living there. The author's ear never fails him; Chris, Rebecca, Napoleon, Marcin, and lively fellow cast members are all fully drawn, speaking in cadences that have the ironclad ring of authenticity. Anasi traces roughly twenty years (1988-2008) of urban transition in ways that make you care about (and maybe fear for) the future of US cities.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By B. Wolinsky on November 30, 2013
Format: Paperback
I visited Williamsburg for the first time back in 1997. My professor had a studio there in an old warehouse, and looking back on it, I realize how ignorant I was. It was a great place to live, but only for economic reasons. The rent was cheap and there was ample parking, and as far as logistics were concerned, it was a short ride on the L train away from NYU. But socially, it wasn’t great. There weren’t a lot of good restaurants (unless you liked Polish, Italian, or typical roadside diners) and the bar scene catered to construction workers. The only people that lived there were looking for cheap rent and big spaces. But by 2000, I wished I’d seen the huge potential. Dopey me.

Robert Anasi’s The Last Bohemia is a great book by a writer who was there the whole time. He narrates this great history of the area, from a time when it was a backwater to the present day “hipster” hangout. When I say hipster, I’m not making any compliments; the so-called “hip” is little more than a bunch of snobs trying to one-up everyone else with their expensive clothing and knowledge of every bar, band, and eatery. The real “hip” people lived in Williamsburg because the rent was cheap. The real artists had to work, and they put up with the place being not much fun.

Anasi doesn’t pull any punches when describing the uber-stylish. He has a lot of respect for the people that lived there before it was cool, and those are the people that got priced out. It truly is the “last bohemia,” because there’s no place like it left in this city (unless you want to trek farther and farther from Manhattan.)

This book reminds me of the recent In Love With Art, because 1970’s Soho is described in a similar way; run-down, few restaurants, but safe, because nobody had anything to steal.
Read more ›
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By 13radley Spinelli on September 15, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
It’s impossible for me to be objective about a neighborhood I’ve called home for fifteen years, and I recognize some of the characters and most of the locations in Anasi’s book. But if anything, my lack of objectivity makes me a harsher critic of any examination of Williamsburg—and The Last Bohemia is a blistering achievement, at once an oral history and a moving, personal narrative.

These collected personal stories sing, not of “hipsters” as a group but of specific people, misfits—both New York natives and transplants—who forged their own community. Anasi plays anthropologist as well as part-time protagonist, and writes with a hedonistic love of language that most fiction writers would envy.

Anasi skillfully raises the dead, recreating a scene of scavenged lives, heroin habits, and a DIY entertainment ethic that planted the seeds for the North Brooklyn hipster scene including the modern movements of mixology, burlesque, and artisanal everything. That this bohemia exploded into a boomtown landgrab is described without undue bitterness.

Anasi’s personal adventurousness as an explorer is inspiring. Anyone who was here before 2005 crawled through the hole in the fence at the waterfront to look at the view amongst burnt-out cars, but Anasi went far further—and far later in time—proving that the urban jungle offers treasures for the bold.

If we have lost something—and we most certainly have—Anasi has graced it in elegy, and he’s given us hope that further treasures await if we’re only willing to look.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse

Most Recent Customer Reviews

Set up an Amazon Giveaway

Amazon Giveaway allows you to run promotional giveaways in order to create buzz, reward your audience, and attract new followers and customers. Learn more
The Last Bohemia: Scenes from the Life of Williamsburg, Brooklyn
This item: The Last Bohemia: Scenes from the Life of Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Price: $13.71
Ships from and sold by

Want to discover more products? Check out these pages to see more: fsg originals, adidas shell toes, run dmc adidas shoes