Monday, January 30, 2006

Stuff I've read so far in '06

I think I'm doing better this year in terms of sticking to a book and finishing it. Then again, it's only the end of January. (Only? Already!) The only time I really feel like reading is on the subway (if I'm not too sleepy), so I don't get very much accomplished each time I crack a book open.

The first thing I finished was Mickey Spillane's novel "Vengeance is Mine!" (exlamation point!), which also concludes "The Mike Hammer Collection: Vol. 1." I'll be moving on to Vol. 2 the next time I'm in the mood for some pulpy pulp.

The next thing I finished was Luc Sante's "Low Life: Lures and Snares of Old New York," which I'd started in 2004 as reasearch on my NaNoWriMo novel. After NaNo passed and my novel was left by the wayside, so was the book for the most part, though I did try to put in a few pages here and there whenever I needed something to read. But I never could finish it, until now. And I have no idea why, but the second half seemed so much more readable and enjoyable than the first! Maybe I just wasn't paying attention. Or maybe I was just reading when I was too sleepy. I tend to do that. That could be it. In any case, it's about life and politics and crime and seediness in New York City from the late 1800s to about 1914 or so, and it doesn't go much further past the first World War. It details the formation of various neighborhoods like Greenwich Village (already a bohemian area back then), the Lower East Side, Little Italy and Chinatown; forms of entertainment (opium dens, nickelodeons -- I love nickelodeons and wish they still existed!); legacies of corrupt politicians and policemen; and much, much more. Some parts were real eye-openers. For example, the amount of homeless children in any given year reached the high five-digit numbers, and that's not even including the ones that weren't able to be counted. Given that the overall population was significantly less than today's 2 million or so in Manhattan alone, that's a huge percentage. And guess what, the real estate trend of marking up the value of shoddy studio apartments in Alphabet City so rich artistes can rent them out is so old skool, it's not even funny. Daaaamn, New York.

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