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Gowanus: Brooklyn’s Curious Canal Hardcover – October 9, 2015
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“The Gowanus Canal may never evoke Venice, but within a few decades, developers are betting, people will be paying a high premium to inhabit its banks. Until then, readers can get a historical view through Joseph Alexiou’s edifying “Gowanus: Brooklyn’s Curious Canal” – Sam Roberts, NY Times
Alexiou begins this, the first full account of the Gowanus Canal’s history, with Thomas Wolfe’s ode to wafting scents of “melted glue, burned rubber, and smoldering rags, the odors of a boneyard horse, long dead, the incense of putrefying offal, the fragrance of deceased, decaying cats, old tomatoes, rotten cabbage, and prehistoric eggs.” How did the residents of South Brooklyn stand it? Wolfe asked. “Well, one gets used to it.” …Alexiou ends with the fascinating struggle for control of the continuing cleanup effort. This is a loving and skillfully rendered portrait of an important and oddly charming part of New York. - Mason B. Williams, NY Times Book Review
"Alexiou takes a figurative dive into the infamously polluted Gowanus Creek in this engrossing narrative of Brooklyn's development amid shifting economic cycles, waves of immigration, urban decay, and its current renewal…Alexiou draws profound and amusing comparisons between the historical Gowanus and the Brooklyn of today as he looks at population, city politics, and the ways humans both rely upon and shortsightedly destroy nature."- Publishers Weekly
"This well-researched, jauntily written, knowledgeable book explains a lot about our funky, much-abused, lovable waterway, not only to those like myself who live near its shores, but to anyone with an appetite for urban history and a desire to fathom the dramatic, contradictory transformations affecting metropolises today."-Phillip Lopate,author of Waterfront
"As dark and sludgy as the waters of the Gowanus Canal are, Joseph Alexiou makes them into a brilliant mirror of urban history. In his skillful hands, the canal provides an incisive and entirely unexpected way of understanding Brooklyn—and, more broadly, American cities—from native peoples through factory owners, speculators, gangsters, brownstone bourgeoisie, and body-art hipsters. Here is a book of relentless research and narrative elan."- Samuel G. Freedman, Columbia University
“Who could have thought a curious, 1.8 mile long New York waterway would have such a fun, fascinating, hidden history? Journalist Joseph Alexiou brings Brooklyn's Gowanus Canal to life with all its gore, political ramifications, and gentrified glory. An intelligent and impressive debut.” Susan Shapiro, author of The Bosnia List
"Alexiou's narrative is well-researched and moves along in a confident and lively manner...The author presents an unusually well-defined case history of the interaction of the private and public sectors generating growth and prosperity through a unique piece of urban infrastructure at a terrible environmental cost that still has not been fully addressed."- Kirkus Reviews
About the Author
Joseph Alexiou is the author of the sixth edition of Paris for Dummies and a licensed New York City tourguide. His writing has appeared in the New York Observer, Gothamist and New York Magazine’s Daily Intel.
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Also worth hearing the author on the Gowanus Canal episode of The Bowery Boys...very entertaining.