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Downtown: My Manhattan by Pete Hamill

Downtown: My Manhattan (original 2004; edition 2005)

by Pete Hamill (Author)

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3711242,778 (3.98)23
Title:Downtown: My Manhattan
Authors:Pete Hamill (Author)
Info:Back Bay Books (2005), Edition: Reprint, 320 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:history, travel

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Downtown: My Manhattan by Pete Hamill (2004)



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An ok overview ....but i was hoping for more history, especially related to to the most recent decades. It turned into excessive name-dropping rather than a true study of New York. overall, just ok! ( )
  JosephKing6602 | Apr 21, 2018 |

Pete Hamill knows and loves NYC, and in Downtown: My Manhattan, where the subtitle is important, he focuses on the area most nostalgic for him, more or less from 42nd Street south, but with some good writing about upper Broadway in the days of the Thalia movie theater. His writing is perhaps too dramatic and sentimental for some readers, but he's a popular newspaper writer, and the quantity of information and anecdotes makes it quite all right.

He draws a distinction between nostalgia and sentimentality, though: New Yorkers, he maintains, are constantly filled with mild nostalgia because things change so quickly that even someone five years in a given location will remember a different neighborhood than a newcomer finds. Constant change inures residents to it, but still a lingering wistfulness, for what one remembers used to be, lingers. It's in this delicately balanced tone that he describes his New York.

And it is truly his New York, as unlike most Manhattanites, he was born and brought up in Brooklyn and then crossed over to the lower east side, for cheap living in his youth, now the East Village and not cheap at all, and currently he resides in the most fashionable (and expensive, but probably not when he arrived) section of the city, Tribeca or TriBeCa, as the real estate people have renamed the triangular area below Canal Street, above the financial district.

The view in 2004 when the book was published of course is haunted by the tremendous shock – and the many changes – that the attacks on the World Trade Towers brought, especially to those living in nearby Tribeca. This was change on a monumental scale, physical and emotional and procedural, even for those of us living further away, and the experience necessarily colors his account.

Highly recommended – though perhaps especially for those who already know and like NYC, as there's just a single map, and not a very detailed one at that. But there are lots of maps available on the web, and the stories are great: Union Square has nothing to do with either the Civil War or trade unions, but marked the place Broadway merged with the Bowery: who knew?
  V.V.Harding | Apr 21, 2015 |
I cannot count the number of times I’ve started and stopped reading this book. Not because I didn’t enjoy reading it, but because I never seemed to have the time to commit to it. I can’t even blame it all on library book expiration — at one point I’d mooched two copies off BookMooch and managed to give away/donate both before I read it. I started thinking about it as well as Philip Lopate’s Waterfront during last summer’s Loop, but never got my hands on a copy. Recently I got back into it and decided this was the time. I would re request a copy for the library as often as I needed to. Luckily, it only took one renewal and I absolutely love this book. I find myself wishing for a sequel.

I like Hamill’s idea about owning a city (and its neighborhoods) in different ways. It’s something I never really thought of, but it’s absolutely true. I argue about the boundaries of the Upper East Side in the same way he does about “Downtown”. Your perception depends on your attitude, your hobbies, your favorites and your age. Hamill is significantly older than I am so his view of his neighborhoods were different to mine even when they overlapped. There’s also the question of timing — this book was published in 2004 which doesn’t seem that long ago, but is significant in the development and change of NYC.

Perhaps the key change was the view of 9/11: in Hamill’s writing, the city was still dealing with the hole in Lower Manhattan. While I was reading, they placed the spire atop the new Freedom Tower. Healed? No. But in a much different place than the early 2000s.

The other issue that time hurt? His bibliography. So many titles I want to read. So few available for Kindle and some out of print entirely.

Two lines from the book’s beginning and end tell Hamill – and New York’s — stories in a nutshell:

I live here still. With any luck at all, I will die here. I have the native son’s irrational love of the place. For any native the home place is infused with a mixture of memory, myth, lore, and history, bound together in an erratic, subjective way. That’s as true of the natives of New York as of the natives of Oxford, Mississippi. … …. The wanderer in Manhattan must go forth with a certain innocence, because New York is best seen with innocent eyes.

This is an amazing look at New York -- it's the history, but it's also the present. It's our city -- what it is, was and will be if we don't break some of the cycles that are clearly present. Hamill's background in newspaper and fiction have taught him how to tell a story -- and that's what this book is. A wonderful story of New York.

More here: http://www.travellingcari.com/2013/05/13/my-manhattan/#more-742 ( )
  skinglist | May 13, 2013 |
Hamill lived almost his entire adult life south of 14th Street in NYC and that's what he writes about . . . the past through the WTC bombings. Having lived and trolled in the same part of NYC for 7 years in the 70's I was very interested in reading the book and it didn't disappoint. Hamill honestly covers the good times and the bad but his overwhelming love for the city and it's people resounds. ( )
  bogopea | Jul 9, 2011 |
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I have always been fascinated with the history of New York City, so I was excited to read this book and it did not disappoint.

A native New Yorker, Hamill takes us on a personal tour of the city he has lived his life in. Hamill gives us a in depth history of the downtown area of Manhattan starting with the Dutch and working his way up to current times. George Washington to Allen Ginsberg and everyone in between the author fills us in on the roles of the movers,shakers and famous passerby's of the city. Hamill provides a lot of history without dragging it out. ( )
  Melkor81205 | Feb 14, 2011 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Pete Hamillprimary authorall editionscalculated
Leslie, DonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0316734519, Hardcover)

A rich historical and personal portrait of Manhattan from the bestselling writer who is for many the living embodiment of the city.

Manhattan, the keystone of New York City, is a place of ghosts and buried memory. One can still see remnants of the British colony, the mansions of the robber barons, and the speakeasies of the 1920s. These are the places that have captivated the imaginations of writers for centuries. Now Pete Hamill brings his unique knowledge and deep love of the city to a New York chronicle like no other.

During his 40 years as a newspaperman, Pete Hamill has been getting to know Manhattans neighborhoods and inhabitants intimately, bearing witness to their greatest triumphs and tragedies. From the winding, bohemian streets of Greenwich Village to the seedy alleyways of the meatpacking district and to the weathered cobblestones of South Street Seaport, Hamill peels back the layers of history to reveal the citys past, present, and future.

More than just history or reporting, this is an elegy by a native son who has lived through some of New Yorks most historic moments, and who continues to call this magnificent, haunted city his home.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:02:25 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

A history of Manhattan from the perspective of a forty-year journalist conveys the author's intimate knowledge of the region's neighborhoods and people, from former 1920s speakeasies to the cobblestones of South Street Seaport.

(summary from another edition)

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