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Literary Brooklyn: The Writers of Brooklyn and the Story of American City Life
by Evan Hughes
Publisher: Henry Holt & Company 2011
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According to freelance journalist and critic Hughes, the one experience Brooklyn writers share is living just outside "the colossal, churning center of the metropolis," thus providing a "revealing window onto the broader history of American urban life." Going chronologically, Hughes also touches on the ethnic diversity of Brooklyn across the decades. Walt Whitman's free-form verse and his bawdy subject matter in Leaves of Grass exalted the downtrodden and inaugurated a less lofty strain in American poetry. Richard Wright's Black Boy documents the "Great Migration" of African-Americans from the rural South to urban Northern centers like Brooklyn; in Death of a Salesman, inspired by his Jewish immigrant uncle, Arthur Miller made the working man of Brooklyn represent the common man struggling in the capitalist system. William Styron's Sophie's Choice captures a postwar Brooklyn peace and growing economic comfort commingled uneasily with the horrors of the Holocaust. Henry Miller, Paul Auster, Hubert Selby Jr., and Norman Mailer round out the collection. A hybrid of urban history and literary biography and analysis, this engrossing, perceptive book makes a valid case for the richness of Brooklyn as a site of the literary imagination.

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