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St. Marks Is Dead: The Many Lives of America's Hippest Street

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4.03  ·  Rating details ·  819 ratings  ·  122 reviews
A vibrant narrative history of three hallowed Manhattan blocks—the epicenter of American cool.

St. Marks Place in New York City has spawned countless artistic and political movements. Here Frank O’Hara caroused, Emma Goldman plotted, and the Velvet Underground wailed. But every generation of miscreant denizens believes that their era, and no other, marked the street’s apex.
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Paperback, 432 pages
Published November 8th 2016 by W. W. Norton Company (first published November 2nd 2015)
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Blaise Lucey It's got some cool photos, but most are black-and-white anyway. I really liked the cover art itself, so I got a hardcover. Looks nice as a prop in the…moreIt's got some cool photos, but most are black-and-white anyway. I really liked the cover art itself, so I got a hardcover. Looks nice as a prop in the apartment. But definitely not one of those books with huge photos everywhere, so eBook version could be just as good. (less)

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Lynx
Aug 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle, non-fiction
From it’s beginnings 400 years ago to present day, Ada Calhoun has done her homework and brings to life the history of one of Manhattans most fascinating streets. Packed full of stories from all walks of life, I found myself so engrossed with each time period that I was sad as each scene “died”, never wanting it to end but then thrilled as a new one formed, excited to enter a new world.

More then just a book about the East Village, this was somewhat of an eye opener for me. Living downtown there
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Brian
Jan 10, 2021 rated it really liked it
St. Marks Is Dead is a lively cultural history of St. Marks Place, the three-block stretch in New York City’s East Village between 3rd Avenue and Avenue A that’s effectively an extension of E. 8th Street. The book’s subtitle, “The Many Lives of America’s Hippest Street,” accurately describes both the street, which has a rightful claim to the “hippest” label, and the scope of the book, which explores the many cultural incarnations of St. Marks Place through the years.

As a child in the 1970s, auth
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Robin
Things to love about this book:

Like everyone she interviewed for this book, I only saw St. Marks in my era as its topic. I love that she started with pre-colonial lower Manhattan and spent so much ink on the Stuyvesant family. Just the simple fact that Bowery comes from bouwerie, which is Dutch for a self sufficient farm. Who among us who thrashed at CBGB ever even saw a self sufficient farm? Tear up the concrete and show me the roots of Pegleg Pete's pear tree!

Peter Cooper's vision of a more hu
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Barbikat60
I love history books. It's especially exciting to read about places that I have some familiarity with. That's why I was so excited to read St. Marks is Dead. Though I never lived in an apartment there, from 1980 to the present I walked, got high, bought stuff, had sex with proprietors of some of the stores, sold my comics on the street and other stuff. I lived on St Marks, just not in an apartment. Learning about the history prior to my arrival in the hood was informative and riveting. It was wh ...more
Audacia Ray
Nov 10, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nyc, read-in-2015
I went through a period of heavy reading of all the NYC history books I could get my hands on, but then I hit a wall where I felt like a lot of the info didn't give me anything new. But damn, this one is good - good enough that it will please me to put it in my book shelf next to Luc Sante's Low Life. This book, because of the years it spans, has a great mix of historical methods, including oral history in the more recent years. It also tied together my understanding of the East Village my dad l ...more
Marti
Nov 07, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: scenes
This book was kind of a fun read though very superficial. That's because it covers about 400 years of St. Marks' history from colonial Dutch times to the present (consisting of interesting factoids like Alexander Hamilton's son having lived in the building where Trash and Vaudeville was). It also means monumental events like the General Slocum disaster get less than five pages. The most interesting parts centered on the '60s -- Warhol's "Exploding Plastic Inevitable" among other happenings -- th ...more
Walt Giersbach
Jan 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ada Calhoun’s wonderful work, worthy of Pete Hamill’s writing, is both a historical look at a memorable Manhattan street and it’s a walk down memory lane.

The history added a great deal to my knowledge of the city where I lived in the ‘60s and ‘70s, but I approached the middle of the book asking, “Who were these people — the walk-ons, not the notables like Andy Warhol — who traipsed St Marks Place? I have to take Ms. Calhoun’s word that they were characters I somehow missed.

The Lower East Side w
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Conor Ahern
When I first moved to NYC, I lived on the corner of Orchard and Houston streets. I didn't know much about New York before moving there, but I lived with three of my best friends in a three bedroom apartment on the same block as Russ & Daughters and within spitting distance of Katz's Deli. I grew to love my neighborhood, but I would stare longingly at that gleaming bastion of fun and youth that beckoned to the north of Houston Street. In my mind, the East Village was the quintessence of young Man ...more
Jason Diamond
Nov 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What can a book tell me about a street that I've walked up and down a million times? Tons. Ada Calhoun's history of St. Marks should go alongside Caro's bio of Robert Moses, Joseph Mitchell, and Luc Sante's Low Life on the part of your bookshelf where you keep the greatest books that tell the history of NYC. ...more
Allan
Jul 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I picked this up in the Strand on a recent trip to NYC, and unsurprisingly, it was right up my street content wise. Having spent some time on that last trip in the area on a couple of walking tours, the stories and anecdotes, dating from early times but mainly focusing on the 20th century, were all the more meaningful. It recovered old ground for me in a couple of areas, but I learned a lot at the same time, and thoroughly enjoyed the book.

Can't wait for my next visit!
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Nancy Regan
Dec 16, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People wanting walking guides to NYC
More of a long Wikipedia entry or People article than an analytical piece, St. Marks Is Dead suffers from TMI and lacks introspection. It covers the history of the most famous street in New York City's East Village from 10,000 BC to 2015. Some periods are covered sketchily (for obvious reasons for the period up to the early 1600's CE, and for puzzling ones for the 2000 aughts), and some in more satisfying detail (the 1900 aughts and the sixties). But the themes it does have, that St. Marks is al ...more
Bob Schnell
Why are there so many songs about St Marks Place? This stretch of 8th St. from Astor Place to Tompkins Square Park in New York City has long been an enclave of immigrants, hustlers, bohemians, punks and every other type of exuberant outsider. Ada Calhoun, who grew up there, brings us a history of the neighborhood with many of the bars, stores and infamous characters well represented. If you've never been there, you'll want to come check it out (even though you should've been there when it was co ...more
Armand
Jan 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: must-own
My favorite book genre is historical non-fiction. I really have a soft spot for books about the history of Manhattan, like "Gangs of New York", "Manhattan", "The Westies", and so forth. I thoroughly enjoyed Ada Calhoun's "St. Mark's Is Dead" and I recommend it to anybody. It is an in-depth, well researched history of St. Mark's Place in the Lower East Side/East Village that spans from prehistoric times to 2015. As someone who grew up in the Lower East Side and spent probably literally years of m ...more
Catherine Siemann
Nov 20, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An engaging micro-history, New York City through the lens of the fabled St Mark's Place. It's a bit surface-y in places -- often I wanted to know more about specific people, places, events. But it gives a strong sense of the broader spectrum of the street's (and neighborhood's) history, from Peter Stuyvesant's farmland to the present day, and Calhoun's argument -- that St. Mark's heyday is always the one that's just passed, and that it constantly reinvents itself -- is demonstrated effectively.

T
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Nate Krenkel
Nov 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great book for fans of the Dutch, beats, hip priests, crust gutter or just CBs framed punks, no wave, speakeasys, karaoke, anarchists, riots, poets, hippies, socialism, pierogis, pear trees, bath houses, gentrification and Auden.
Offbalance
Dec 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
"Well, there goes the neighborhood."

We've all thought it, said it, or heard it. Ada Calhoun uses it as her thesis statement for her remarkable history of a rather small radius of East Village territory (a part of town I know and love well). She begins with the Lenape tribes that first settled around the area, and had to contend with Peter Stuyvesant and his ilk moving in and messing everything up. I was completely captivated by each capsule of time that Calhoun wrote about, particularly years I
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Tom Walsh
Part History Lesson, Part First Person Account

I sublet a third floor walkup on St. Marks Place with a couple of friends for three months during the 1967 Summer of Love so nostalgia attracted me to this book.

That summer was a seminal moment bridging a sheltered adolescence and an opening to a much wider and weirder world outside. This work provided a well documented history of the evolution of the street from a center of commerce and immigrant survival through its role as the focal point of the
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Robert Guttersohn
Mar 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
3.75 great individual memories and anecdotes
Shweta Ganesh Kumar
A must read for anyone in love with the East village and those interested in the history of Manhattan. There is no New York City without the East village and no East village without St. Marks.
pronto
Apr 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Amazing book. Esp if you've visited the area. From sad and depressing eras and stories, to fun and happy enjoyment.
It's a roller coaster of a book. Highly recommend.
note: Took me a year to read this book mostly because I read it in bars, and on the amtrak to/from NYC.
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Brad Hodges

When I worked in New York City during the '80s and '90s I always enjoyed a trip to St. Marks Place, though it wasn't very often. Usually I met my friend Steve at a dive bar called the Grassroots. We would get a pizza from a place on the corner and bring it to the Grassroots where we would order pitchers of Rheingold. Good times.

Upon reading St. Marks Is Dead, by Ada Calhoun, I'm glad to hear Grassroots is still open, as so much of the street is gone. Although Calhoun, who grew up on the street,
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Sarah -  All The Book Blog Names Are Taken
Loved this one. Full review to come soon.

+++++++++++

My Book Blog: http://allthebookblognamesaretaken.bl...

https://www.facebook.com/AllTheBookBl...

www.twitter.com/SarahsBookNook

Ugh. Everything about this book is so beautiful and ugly and traumatic and hopeful. I don't even know where to start. So, let's just appreciate that cover for a moment. I love it. Gorgeous. Plus, with an endorsement from King Ad-Rock (my most favorite of the Beastie Boys) on the back once the book was actually in my hands,
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Scott
Dec 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There are hundreds of great stories to be heard and moments of nostalgia (if applicable) to be had with Ada Calhoun's hugely entertaining history/journalistic portrait of the three-block-long stretch of unceasing NYC cool-ness, St. Marks Place. Well, I guess it wasn't really "cool" when the Stuyvesants lorded over the land (it was a pear orchard), though St. Marks Church-on-the-Bowery, still vital today, has apparently always been pretty radical relative to the times, ever since its founding in ...more
Jamie
Lots of individual stories about the first street I ever went to in NYC, and one that will forever have a soft spot in my heart. Much of the pre-punk history I didn't so much know about, and even some of the present day. I especially loved the map of each building on the street and what it has housed through the years. Ultimately I felt there was some type of binding or through story that was missing, which is why I docked it a star as a book. As a bunch of stories, it was great and really reada ...more
Chris Quartly
Jan 20, 2018 rated it liked it
Very enjoyable book, though criticism would be that it skims over so many things in a couple of paragraphs that would seem worthy of their own book. This is necessary to stop the book becoming thousands of pages long, of course, but it's still to the book's detriment. However, an excellent blitz through the history of a fascinating part of the city. ...more
Paulette
Nov 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An excellent study of one of NYC's more famous streets from its early settlement until today. A crisply written and entertaining book about the people and places on St. Marks Place. ...more
Autumn Kovach
Aug 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: new-york
St. Marks is Dead was published shortly after I moved to New York. I was just beginning to explore the neighborhoods of Manhattan. One day I ate at Veselka with my friend Nadia and she introduced me to St. Marks. Immediately I felt a vibe that is hard to articulate. It’s a feeling I get in many lower Manhattan neighborhoods; nostalgia, wonder, reverence and occasional eeriness. In these St. Marks streets, I sensed a bright and dark past through multiple layers of time.

This book had been on my to
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Nathalie
When I read St. Marks is Dead this April 2020, St. Marks was dead indeed. New York City was in pause to brace for the devastating outbreak of COVID-19. During the eleven-week shutdown, bars, restaurants and stores were closed, old artists and former squatters were hospitalized, students went back to their parents. Everybody stayed inside.

Sitting by my window on the third floor looking out onto the stretch of Avenue C between 7th and 8th, in the heart of Alphabet City, on the other side of Tompki
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Liam
Feb 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
"Another house sitter of Auden's recalls opening the bedside table and finding nothing but a jar of Vaseline and two pairs of castanets." (110)

"Chain clothing stores may have been bland, with their crisp stacks of denim, racks of floral dresses, and arrays of plaid flannel shirts, but plenty of us who grew up in the East Village were almost intoxicated by this blandness, as if by an exotic new perfume. As a little girl there, I nurtured dreams of leaving New York and becoming a farmer." (251)

"'Y
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John
Dec 15, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting history, well researched. However, the author fell victim to her own theory that everyone who lived there believed that their era was the most interesting. She jumped from the mid-90's to 2014 as if nothing interesting happened in those 20 years. She could have just stopped the book whenever she wanted, but after being uber-detailed about the 60's, 70's, 80's, jumping straight to 2014 was jarring. Reads like she either didn't care about what happened, or thought anything that happene ...more
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Award-winning journalist Ada Calhoun is the author of the NYC history St. Marks Is Dead, chosen by Kirkus and the Boston Globe as one of the best books of 2015; the essay collection Wedding Toasts I'll Never Give, named by W magazine one of the best 10 memoirs of 2017; and Why We Can't Sleep: Women's New Midlife Crisis, coming out January, 7, 2020. ...more

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