George's Reviews > How the Other Half Lives: Studies Among the Tenements of New York

How the Other Half Lives by Jacob A. Riis
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Jan 01, 2011

it was ok
bookshelves: nook-ereads
Read from January 14 to 18, 2011

A TOUGH READ

“And so it comes down to the tenement, the destroyer of individuality and character everywhere”—page 193

“The truth is that pauperism grows in the tenements as naturally as weeds in a garden lot.”—page 193

Now I know how the ‘other half’ lives: in tenement-houses, obviously. Wait. I lived in tenement-housing most of my formative years. Oh. The shame of it all. Now, at least, I know where my character and individuality went.

I’m not sure whether or not I much liked Jacob A. Riis’s ‘How the Other Half Lives: Studies Among the Tenements of New York.’ It is very in depth and it deals with New York, one of my favorite subjects, but it was a tough read. Outmoded 19th century idioms combined with a tendency to write in very long sentences, and in paragraphs that are literally pages long, made it very difficult to get into the rhythm of the writing. Three of four of the chapters really did sing, but that just wasn’t enough to redeem those that croaked.

Then, too, I’m not personally much of a fan of the author’s major premise/obsession that it’s the conditions/circumstances that create sloth and slovenly living: “They are shiftless, destructive, and stupid; in a word, they are what the tenements have made them.”—page 214, and not the other way around.

Recommendation: I don’t think I’ll be reading much by Jacob A. Riis anytime soon, and perhaps you shouldn’t either.

“The bankrupt in hope, in courage, in purse, and in purpose, are not peculiar to New York.”—page 192

[NookBook] published in 2004 by Barnes and Noble, 239 pages (Originally published in 1890)
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