“What was so special about this “West Village”?” Malcolm Gladwell asked, when all he knew about New York was “from Martin Scorsese movies.” He is one of the authors of Greenwich Village Stories, a collection of essays by artists like John Guare, Thomas Meehan, Lou Reed, Wynton Marsalis, Patricia Clarkson, and many more (matched by photographs by Allen Ginsberg, Rudy Burckhardt, Berenice Abbott), an anthology of personal writings that reveals how the Village stimulated and changed these creative animals. But the neighborhood changed, too. With West Village one-bedrooms pushing $5,000, how many young artists can afford to live here now? Suddenly preservation of recent cultural history is important. With Greenwich Village Stories, GVSHP and Rizzoli are doing that.
I am humbled to be included of this upholding effort, in a group of remarkable artists, even though my arriving to the neighborhood was part of this inflation: “West Village harbored a mishmash of different species and formed a battleground of sorts for MBAs like me and subletting artists,” I argue in my essay. Yet there is always hope. The more stories I read, the more my feelings about my contribution, to the book and my hood, evolve: From new-kid-on-the-block shame (“I was part of the cocky Hermès-tie invasion of the West Village”) to confused and potentially creative curiosity (“Out of frustration, one day I yelled “Get a life!” at the tour guide helping tourists take pictures of where Sex and the City was shot. That act of West Village disobedience made me start writing.”)
I won’t share Amazon’s link to Greenwich Village Stories…New Yorkers, how about a walk to the Three Lives Bookstore on West Tenth Street? Buy the book and cross the street for a drink at Julius. There, enjoy a couple of essays under stills from Boys in the Band, Next Stop: Greenwich Village, and Love is Strange—all with scenes in the bar. That includes you too, Goldman boys; you know who you are…
Photo by Shelley Seccombe (Back Flip Pier Bank Street 1979)