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Boogaloo on 2nd Avenue

3.13  ·  Rating details ·  202 Ratings  ·  32 Reviews
It s the boom years of the 1980s, and life is closing in on Nathan Seltzer, who rarely travels beyond his suddenly gentrifying Lower East Side neighborhood in New York City. Between paralyzing bouts of claustrophobia, Nathan wonders whether he should cheat on his wife with Karoline, a German pastry maker whose parents may or may not have been Nazis. His father, Harry, is p ...more
Paperback, 319 pages
Published February 28th 2006 by Random House Trade (first published January 1st 2005)
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Mar 19, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Everyone
An excellent story about a NYC neighborhood and the characters that inhabit it.

The thing w/ this book is you don't feel like you're reading the author's story. Nick Kurlansky has succeeded in completely removing his voice from the pages, a feat I have rarely encountered in works of fiction and one that makes the book eminently enjoyable.

Kurlansky has wonderful knack for characterizing each individual in this story w/ unique dialog and language - impressive considering it takes place in Lower Man
Dora Truong
Aug 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Boogaloo on Second Avenue by Mark Kurlansky
At first I thought this would just be a fun read and it was, but so much more. Talk about a melting pot, this one melted and morphed, fused and fomented. The eighties weren't good times for NYC yet what a rich family life the Seltzers had. We should all live in such an interesting place with so much family around us and fascinating neighbors. Yet what secrets everyone carried and of course pain. The surprises were great, as was the humor and pathos. LOV
Jun 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
Set in the 1980's , the story follows the everyday lives of a divergent group of residents in a neighborhood of NYC's Lower East Side. Populated by Jewish immigrants from Germany, Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, Italians and a few urban pioneers riding the first wave of gentrification, the daily lives are much the same for each group. All are aspiring to make a better life and feel others are hindering them. Chow Mein Vega, a former boogaloo star continues to perform. Felix, a former Dominican drug d ...more
Alex Goodison
Aug 21, 2013 rated it liked it
Set in the Lower East Side of New York City in the 1980’s, Boogaloo on 2nd Avenue upon first encounter seems like your stereotypical “ethnic” story - You have your immigrant Germans, Jews, Puerto Ricans, Dominicans pretending to be Puerto Ricans and those who desperately want the neighbourhood to be ‘up-and-coming’ – and In reality that’s pretty much the whole story. Not much more to it. But it’s these overemphasized stereotypes that makes the book so quirky and warm. I found the beginning sligh ...more
Apr 21, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: just-for-fun
This was an accidental read but one I am sure glad I undertook. Set in a fictional Lower East Side of NYC in the 1980's, with Michael Dekakis running for President against George Bush, the story centers on a collection of Jewish, Puerto Rican and Dominican residents. Central to the story is music, in particular boogaloo, pastures, mistaken Nazi identity, sex and mouth-watering descriptions of pastries, and a few murders thrown in for good measure. If you are Jewish you will appreciate the humor ...more
Aug 09, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, audio
This is a book my mother would have described as "too ethnic." Late eighties in the lower East side of New York. Jews, Germans, and Puerto Ricans (and Dominicans trying to pass as Puerto Ricans), and yuppies hoping to see the neighborhood become upwardly mobile are just a few of the groups living in the community. Nathan is married and the father of a precocious young daughter, but is obsessed with the daughter of the local German baker (was he a Nazi?)who always smells enticingly of butter. Sex ...more
Jan 06, 2008 rated it liked it
Boogaloo attracted me almost solely based on its title. Then I peeked at the blurb and discovered it took place in the East Village during the late 80's. The first 75 pages or so drag the hell on as they introduce an assload of characters that live in the neighborhood and therefore make up the fabric of the book. The main character is a more-or-less lapsed Jew named Nathan that owns a small copy shop and is having a semi-midlife crisis. The book picks up after everyone is introduced and they sta ...more
Oct 23, 2012 rated it liked it
A wonderful glimpse into the messy neighborhoods of NYC in the 80s. I KNEW these characters growing up. It's great fun, if not very deep. Kurlansky draws us in with a collection of colorful characters and a lot of wink wink jokes for those in the know of that time and place. He tries to add in a dark secret at the end, and I think that part falls very flat - take it for what it's worth, which is FUN.
Aug 25, 2007 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: LESers
I was disappointed to see Kurlansky fall on his face in a first fiction fumble. It's a good subject, though. A diverse community of Jews, Italians, Hispanics, white Yuppies and the rich Asians, all resisting each other, and living together in the 1980s Lower East Side. There are some memorable moments of history within, but all in all, It's a most confusing novelization. Worth reading once, just to glean the highlights of the time.
Feb 19, 2013 rated it did not like it
I think I made it to Chapter 7, 8 maybe. Ok, Mark. I get's a neighborhood full of Jews, Latinos, etc. You don't have to tell us in EVERY chapter that these characters are Jewish...then the next chapter they are Latino, Italian, whatever. It's a bit overloaded with ethnic references, as if he didn't think the reader could figure that out by themselves. Maybe the author did this because he had soooooooo many characters! I found this book, what little I read of it, to be EXHAUSTING.
Dec 21, 2014 rated it liked it
I'll never know personally what New York, and in particular the Lower East Side, was like in the late 1980s, so I found this book interesting in how it conveyed this time and place. The motley cast of characters could get a bit exhausting, although that's a fairly accurate representation of New York.
Roman Sonnleitner
Jan 12, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An enjoyable read - sure, you can clearly see (in plot development & language) that Kurlansky is not a ficiton writer, and the best-written passages are the cooking scenes (the author's literary roots showing there...) - but it's a fun story, mostly likeable characters & interesting setting; not bad at all for a first novel.
Nov 02, 2012 rated it did not like it
Listened to this book on tape and just found it completely uncompelling. Did not keep my attention at all and thought about not even finishing it. Didn't feel for or care about the characters or the story at all.
Adam Gross
Often entertaining, but bogs down in too many characters. Picked it up because I grew up in same area in which the book takes place. I wonder if it's more or less interesting if you don't know the neighborhood well.
Mar 14, 2008 marked it as to-read
Shelves: half-read
I got this from the library and enjoyed what I read of it, but drifted away from it. Keep meaning to check it out again to read the rest. But it was just what I wanted: a novel with a food-related bent.
Jul 05, 2011 rated it it was ok
I really enjoyed Kurlansky's non-fiction. He should probably stick to that and leave fiction alone.
Jun 16, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I just couldn't get into it... I wish he had stuck with Cod.
Apr 08, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a super fun book to listen to. I learned lots about NYC and jewish food.
May 22, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: people who need a good laugh
This book was hilarious!
Aug 06, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Quite a jumble of characters. If you love New York City and enjoy food and ethnicity (which I do) you'll enjoy this book, but I got bogged down with all the (stereotyped) characters.
Matt Norby
I was curious about this book because the author is better known for his history of cod. Not a happy story for the most part.
Mar 20, 2009 rated it liked it
A clever, sometimes witty play on ethnic stereotypes in in New York. However there were too many characters so I got confused, and really... there was no plot.
Jul 17, 2009 rated it it was ok
I wanted to like this but it was shallow with unlikable characters. The recipe for Rigo Jancsi and the passages involving cooking are the saving graces.
This was too scratched up to finish. I got about a third of the way through and I liked what I heard.
Jan 05, 2011 rated it liked it
Listened to the audio book version on a trip out to the mountains back in 2005 and greatly enjoyed this debut novel by Kurlansky (author of the nonfiction works 'Cod' and 'Salt').
May 12, 2008 rated it really liked it
This was a quick, witty read.
Jan 23, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pulp-fun
Remarkably fun and enjoyable book. Not an earth-mover, but a story whose quirky details and gentle themes have stuck with me for years. Entirely worth reading.
brian tanabe
rated it it was ok
Oct 04, 2007
rated it really liked it
Jul 15, 2016
rated it really liked it
Aug 31, 2016
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Mark Kurlansky (born 7 December 1948 in Hartford, Connecticut) is a highly-acclaimed American journalist and writer of general interest non-fiction. He is especially known for titles on eclectic topics, such as cod or salt.

Kurlansky attended Butler University, where he harbored an early interest in theatre and earned a BA in 1970. However, his interest faded and he began to work as a journalist in
More about Mark Kurlansky...