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Walker in the City

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3.86 of 5 stars 3.86  ·  rating details  ·  276 ratings  ·  34 reviews
Kazin's memorable description of his life as a young man as he makes the journey from Brooklyn to "americanca"-the larger world that begins at the other end of the subway in Manhattan. A classic portrayal of the Jewish immigrant culture of the 1930s. Drawings by Marvin Bileck.
Hardcover, 176 pages
Published July 1st 1997 by Fine Communications (first published 1951)
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James Murphy
My reading and enjoyment of Teju Cole's novel Open City last spring inspired me to reread A Walker in the City because I thought I saw similarities in the two. Cole's meditative story about an immigrant doctor in residence wandering New York City reflecting on what he sees and the rich brew of thoughts it all brings to mind reminded me of Kazin's memoir because that's how I remembered it. I was surprised to discover it's not quite that way. As a boy Kazin did explore and wander a bit. To say it ...more
Douglas Dalrymple
The word was my agony. The word that for others was so effortless and so neutral, so unburdened, so simple, so exact, I had first to meditate in advance, to see if I could make it, like a plumber fitting together odd lengths and shapes of pipe.

Like Moses, Alfred Kazin had a stutter. He found his Aaron in pen and paper, as this gorgeous memoir proves. Each of the book’s four sections traces a walking route through the immigrant Brooklyn neighborhood of Kazin’s youth and adolescence in the 1920s a
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Andrew
Kazin has a remarkable gift for turning a phrase. In his hands, memory is as dynamic and lively as a movie. Imagine, if you will, an American version of Walter Benjamin, a Bernard Malamud who writes nonfiction, and a Sherwood Anderson transported to an urban environment, and then combine the three. You pretty much have Alfred Kazin. Lord this was good. He can write something that's nostalgic and even sentimental, but make it moving instead of cloying, and that's a rare gift indeed.
Matt
Kazin writes about growing up in a Jewish community in Brooklyn before the depression. As a New Yorker, and a lover of New York history, this stood out to me, but I think it really has universal appeal. Kazin is a fascinating man, and his struggles with issues like community and self-identity are easily identifiable.
Laura Tanenbaum
Every New Yorker has her own map of things as they were, things as they have become. In his memoir, the critic Alfred Kazin gives us is - the insular Bronzeville, Brooklyn neighborhood of the twenties and thirties, when Jewish immigrants discussed socialism and longed to join the "all right-niks" on Eastern Parkway. It's common to praise memoirs for being "without nostalgia or sentimentality" - but such a thing is rarely possible. This book is bathed in both, but to beautiful effect, giving us a ...more
Gregg
I read this about a decade ago, and forgot all about it until today. A wonderful look at life in "The City" from days gone by.

When I lived in Brooklyn, I used to go to a Chinese restaurant near my apartment. I stopped by one afternoon to pick up dinner, and saw the owners all dressed up-a well preserved 20 year old suit, camera, fedora, etc. for the man. His wife was wearing a flower print dress, and had her her all done up. They told me it was their wedding anniversary, and that they were going
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Karima
Jun 05, 2007 Karima rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: ALL
Shelves: previouslyread
A WALKER IN THE CITY, is a kind of sensory tour Kazin's childhood in Brownsville, NYC. It begins, "Every time I go back to Brownsville it is as if I had never been away. From the moment I step off the train at Rockaway Avenue and smell the leak out of the men's room, then the pickles from the stand just below the subway steps, an instant rage comes over me, mixed with dread and some unexpected tenderness... As I walk those familiarly choked streets at dusk and see the old women sitting in front ...more
Rick
These memory pieces by the famous, post WWII literary critic, all begin or end in Brownsville, the neighborhood in Brooklyn that was Kazin’s childhood home. Mostly they’re perfect. Only the longest one, “The Block and Beyond,” suffers from trying too hard to be lyrical. Otherwise, they are wonderfully observant recollections of time, place, and culture that bring to life parts of New York City from the 1920s and 30s in vivid description and colorful anecdote. I am 30 years behind Kazin so some o ...more
Dan Lalande
Journalist/critic Alfred Kazin's sensorial re-immersion into the Brownsville (Brooklyn) of his youth, a Whitmanesque inventory of the sights, sounds and smells of the Eastern European immigrant universe of the 1920's. The prose is high-minded but the perspective is sour; Kazin escaped, through literature, not with survivor's laughter but with tears that never dried.
Debbie
This is a memoir about Alfred Kazin growing up in Brownsville in Brooklyn, NY. Brownsville is a poor Jewish town. Kazin goes on walks around the city and outside Brownsville and poetically describes his walks. The book read like prose poetry and a travel narrative to me. This book wasn't my cup of tea and that's why I gave it a low rating.
Deedee
Nostalgia gone wild!
Four autobiographical essays of life as a young Jewis boy living in New York City from 1920's - 1930's.

"From the Subway to the Synagogue"
-I was the first American child - All teachers were to be respected like gods - blue collar workers (painters) - the delicatessen - the movie theatre - the synagogue with the people from the same European village

"The Kitchen"
Jewishness - the Sabbath - and his mother

"The Block and Beyond"
pick-up softball in the streets - travels outside of th
...more
Karlyn
Pretty damn beautiful
Liam
"[I]t puzzled me that no one around me seemed to take God very seriously. We neither believed nor disbelieved. He was our oldest habit." (46)

"Life was a battle to 'make sure'; it had no place, as we had no time, for whims." (57)

"There seemed to be no middle ground between despair and the fury of our ambition." (70)

"In Yiddish we broke all the windows to let a little air into the house." (119)

"This [summer] light will not go out until I have lodged it in every crack and corner of me first." (165)
John
"Past and present become each other's faces."
Dave
This book was an extraordinary read. The author reminisces over his childhood growing up in a poor Jewish community on the outskirts of New York: he then goes much deeper touching questions that we ask ourselves (or have ever asked ourselves) as teenagers/young adults grasping to understand our various identities and their place in this industrialized enigma. It is about finding your place in the world and making peace with the one that has passed. Alfred Kazin speaks to our conscience through h ...more
Amy
A little dry at times, but mostly full of beautiful prose describing the authors life in New York and how the streets shaped him. I enjoyed that it offers much to be pondered and is subtle enough to avoid being a typical "coming of age" story.
Safitri
A gorgeous book. I would love to watch a video or illustrated piece with readings from it. I could read it over and over again. A balm in the wee hours during Gonzalo.
Anita
Took me back, although not as far back as the author, to the neighborhoods that I passed through on the LL train. That's right it was the LL and the last stop was Canarsie. It may be hard to understand, especially for "newbies" in Brooklyn, but Brooklyn was a city. And to this day, thre are people who have never left their neighborhoods. Kazin talks about gettting off the block and and what it was like to go to Manhattan, crossing the bridge. Great read!
sisterimapoet
I heard about this via a guide to non-fiction book. And I'm glad I did. A great example of the genre and a delightful read too. The way Kazin gave us a place, a simple street or walk between a couple, and from that spun back and forth between various memories. A real treasure.
Rachel S
if you love nyc, hate nyc but cant seem to shake nyc, kazin's racing heart and vision as he walks and walks from boro to boro, brings memories, even if you've not walked the same road as he did. kazin is a must read for writers, he writes as a writer, not as someone wanting to be a writer-there's no on/off switch. you absorb life from reading his work.
Ray
I really enjoyed this. I love reading about life in NYC before 1960. Kazin is a poet and evokes such familiar sentiments of growing up in a big city. I'm not nearly as old as Kazin and even I remember "Fletcher's Castoria"!
Cort Gross
right there with Luis Mumford on walking the City---told here from a Jewish kid in NYC's prespective. this is one of those books like Didion's "Slouching..."---which I return to annually to remember what a good essay is---this one I dip into frequently to see how to write about cities.
Anita
This is a magical book that seamlessly flows from one chapter to the next, all without a traditional "plot." It's about what it feels like to grow up from a sensory perspective. So glad I read it. And it doesn't take long to finish.
Doug Arbesfeld
I'm still reading this and loving it.
A very moving depiction the life of first generation and immigrant Jews in Brooklyn in the 1920s and 30s. I can smell the pickles and herring being sold from pushcarts on Blake ave.
Florence
The author's coming of age story from Brownsville in Brooklyn to the outside world in a poetic odyssy. I could feel the summer heat on the pavements. I could smell the food cooking in his tenement apartment.
Adam Shprintzen
One of my favorite books, just began my fourth reading. Despite its age, the book offers what I still consider the most accurate description of the soul and rhythm of life in New York.
Erin Tuzuner
A gorgeous portrait of old New York. The beauty transports you to a grittier time, every sense affected by the prose of a time since past.
Desi Bjorn
Kazin is a master wordsmith with the ability to capture the imagery and essence of life onto the page. This was a delicious read! Captivating.
Doug
Enjoyed very much. Wasn't quite as enraptured with it as Zinsser and others in his book on memoir were. But well worth the time.
Vanessa
Didn't actually read it...I did listen attentively to the in-depth discussion of this book in my New York Studies class.
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Alfred Kazin (June 5, 1915 – June 5, 1998) was an American writer and literary critic, many of whose writings depicted the immigrant experience in early twentieth century America.

Kazin is regarded as one of "The New York Intellectuals", and like many other members of this group he was born in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn and attended the City College of New York. However, his politics were
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“Yet it puzzled me that no one around me seemed to take God very seriously. We neither believed nor disbelieved. He was our oldest habit.” 0 likes
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