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

4.2 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"His clear-eyed, heartfelt elegy shows why a Williamsburg―free, fecund, gloriously threadbare―is so vital to the culture."―Publishers Weekly

"With a fine ear for dialogue and a nonjudgmental eye, Anasi conjures the pre-9/11 atmosphere of the place, in which the beer flowed like water and there was always a place to crash after a night of pub crawling. An impressive bit of literary journalism and a sympathetic look at a vanished era."―Kirkus 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.

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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: #971,493 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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