The Williamsburg Book Club Message Board › TIME TO VOTE: NOVEMBER
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The poll to vote for November's selection is up until next Tuesday morning (9/25). Descriptions below, vote here.
The Last Bohemia: Scenes from the Life of Williamsburg, Brooklyn by Robert Anasi (240 pgs)
A firsthand account of the swift transformation of Williamsburg, from factory backwater to artists’ district to trendy hub and high-rise colony. Williamsburg, Brooklyn, is now so synonymous with hipster culture and the very idea of urban revitalization—so well-known from Chicago to Cambodia as the playground for the game of ironized status-seeking and lifestyle one-upmanship—that it’s easy to forget how just a few years ago it was a very different neighborhood: a spread of factories, mean streets and ratty apartments that the rest of New York City feared and everyone but artists with nowhere else to go left alone. Robert Anasi hasn’t forgotten. He moved to a $300-a-month apartment in Williamsburg in 1994, and watched as the area went through a series of surreal transformations: the warehouses became lofts, secret cocaine bars became sylized absinthe parlors, barrooms became stage sets for inde-rock careers and rents rose and rose—until the local artists found that their ideal of personal creativity had served the aims of global commerce, and that their neighborhood now belonged to someone else. Tight, passionate, and provocative, The Last Bohemia is at once a celebration of the fever dream of bohemia, a lament for what Williamsburg has become and a cautionary tale about the lurching transformations of city neighborhoods throughout the United States.
Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson (656 pages)
Amazon Best Books of the Month, November 2011: It is difficult to read the opening pages of Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs without feeling melancholic. Jobs retired at the end of August and died about six weeks later. Now, just weeks after his death, you can open the book that bears his name and read about his youth, his promise, and his relentless press to succeed. But the initial sadness in starting the book is soon replaced by something else, which is the intensity of the read--mirroring the intensity of Jobs’s focus and vision for his products. Few in history have transformed their time like Steve Jobs, and one could argue that he stands with the Fords, Edisons, and Gutenbergs of the world. This is a timely and complete portrait that pulls no punches and gives insight into a man whose contradictions were in many ways his greatest strength.
The Collected Stories by Grace Paley (400 pgs)
Paley is a member of that select breed of writers who become masters of the short story and resist the pressure to produce a novel. This volume gathers together more than 30 years' worth of stellar stories from Paley's best-known collections, The Little Disturbances of Man (1959), Enormous Changes at the Last Minute (1974), and Later the Same Day(1985). This rich compilation presents us with the full spectrum of Paley's voices as well as her observations and interpretations of urban family life and a society that thrives on oppression. An outspoken pacifist, feminist, and self-described "cooperative anarchist," Paley can no more keep her political beliefs out of her fiction than a plant can keep from releasing oxygen into the atmosphere, but the story always comes first. Her cast of stubborn, opinionated, earthy, smart, sassy, and robust characters demand it. Paley writes just as effectively from a man's point of view as a woman's, discerning the ironies of everyone's predicaments, but she writes most poignantly about the frustrations of women stuck in the rigidity of gender roles. Paley's people either have moxie, or tremendous endurance. They're frank about lust, angry about money, and always ready for a good argument. These staccato tales of the city capture of the essence of the changes each decade has brought, while also dramatizing the continuity of human emotions. And Paley can just knock us flat with the force of her spirited language.