Sunday, March 10, 2013

New York, Just Like I Pictured It!

James Wolcott's memoir: Lucking Out. He is humble enough to point out his great luck. That should not cover the fact that he achieved great things as a writer in New York in the '70s and thereafter, and he saved enough brain cells to remember it pretty well for this memoir. He arrives from Maryland in the great city with a letter of reference from Norman Mailer. Coming to the city with hope of a literary life. Some hungry days, but he throws himself and is mixing with the strange New York crowd of the day. A story a tad Dickensian (with cynical urbanity all around, he remains as tender as Copperfield) , but this time with the backdrop of the Nixon era. Arriving as he does in 1972, he enters New York City at a particularly portent time. (Think of that Stevie Wonder number where the guy full of hope gets off at Port Authority, only to immediately be arrested and sent to Attica forever.) New York in 1972 - still relatively cheap, never more dangerous, (one day that year 24 people were killed - someone was murdered the equivalent of every hour, I was there (saw a guy just out of jail singing "On Broadway" walking lower Broadway one Sunday morning) , and that is what I recall), so full of news and newspapers, and a string of inventive movies. Seedy it was and infused with the great disease of such a civilization - decadence, pinnacled in the form of Warhol's Factory. Punk was to happen, but at this point it was something else, the New York Dolls. At the Mercer Art Center. Wolcott was there, and his memory serves well. As a writer he has often been capable of marvelous turns of phrase. In Lucking Out we get great passages, ironic and humorous, and great story telling. As I said, I was there, well near anyway, for a while, so especially do I credit Wolcott for this achievement.

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