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New York in the 50s Hardcover – May, 1992

4.0 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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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.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 355 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin (T) (May 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0395513200
  • ISBN-13: 978-0395513200
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #809,776 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Stewart Kiritz on December 31, 2006
Format: Paperback
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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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
New York In The Fifties [1950s], Dan Wakefield [1932- ]; Houghton Mifflin / Seymour Lawrence (1992 hardcover; 341 pages)

"Political messages went over big in two 1938 films. 'A French film challenges Hollywood,' reported Life [magazine] of Jean Renoir's World War I drama, 'Grand Illusion' "... which "inspired the New York Times to utter, 'Its virtues cannot be reduced to words.' "

--- "Inside Oscar," Mason Wiley & Damien Bona (1988, p. 87).

The virtues of Dan Wakefield's memoir, "New York In The 1950s's" are easy to describe. Its liabilities almost defy description & 238 specific examples are:

"But nobody..."; "But... not..." (& "But no"); "But not... and..."; "But... not just"; "But... not only... but also..."; "For but not... but not..."; "If not... and...";

"If not... at least..."; "If not... then"; "If not... then some..."; "Just... but not..."; "Never... but..."; "No... and also..."; "No... but..."; "No more... than";

"No... nor..." (& "No... or..."); "Not... but... not"; "Not... for..."; "Not from... but..."; "No... than... without..."; "Nothing but..."

"Not just..."; "Not... just..." "Not just;..."; "Not just... and not just... but..."; "Not just... but..."; "Not just... but... and"; "Not just... not..."; "Not... never..."; "Not... nor...";

"Not... not..."; "Not... not just... and..."; "Not only..."; "Not only... but..."; "Not... only had..."; "Not only... more [important]..."; "Not... perhaps... but...";

"Not so... as if..."; "Not... so much..."; "Not so much as... but as..."; "Not so much from... as from..."; "Not so much... but..."; "Not... though..."; "Not... unless..."; "Not would..."; "Not... yet..."; & "No... yet...
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By A Customer on April 15, 1999
Format: Paperback
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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've never been to New York, but I hope that when I finally touch down, I get to experience a sliver of Dan Wakefield's Big Apple.

From his entrance to Columbia University to his time in Greenwich Village and debauched nights at the White Horse Tavern, Wakefield's memoir sheds light on one of NYC's most fertile epochs. His anecdotes concerning writers and artists of the age are witty, insightful, and, at times, hilarious. But, I found this book to be more than just an ode to an era. Occasionally, the city is portrayed as a secondary character, with Wakefield touching upon his sexual awakenings, his maturity into a man, and taking us along his journey of personal discovery. By doing so, he forms a layered connection with the reader, regardless of their feelings toward the city.

A highly recommended read for transportation to the world's cultural epicenter during America's most "innocent" time.
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This is a really interesting book about New York in the age of Eisenhower, Elvis and Joe McCarthy. From the vantage point of the 21st century, Wakefield's Big Apple almost seems like another planet but his enthusiasm for the fifties and the city makes me wish I had been there. He covers a wide variety of subjects including Freudian analysis, which had a near religious following at the time, drinking, friendship and hanging out with literary stars of the period like C. Wright Mills, Joan Dideon and James Baldwin. Wakefield's riffs on the jazz scene serve as a literary sound track for the book. Having researched and written about sports in the 1950s, I found Wakefield's rendering of other areas of the fifties completely engrossing.

The author's main theme is that the 1950s provided a cultural divide and a reading of a book like Willie Morris' NEW YORK DAYS, about the city in the 1960s, supports Wakefield's contention. All and all, this is an enjoyable, nostalgic reading experience.
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