Mbreaden's Reviews > Low Life: Lures and Snares of Old New York

Low Life by Luc Sante
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's review
Jun 07, 2011

really liked it

This book is stuffed with odd little anecdotes, some only one or two sentences long, about the lower class of Manhattan during the 19th and early 20th centuries. The descriptions are so ceaseless and the tone very distant from the subjects so that you feel as though Sante is using pointillism from a bird's eye view. I'll probably hop around the book because not all the nitty-gritty descriptions interest me, but, oh boy, there are some hilarious, hilarious passages. Example:

"This hostelry later became famous as the site of the murder of a local woman of uncertain age but dire condition, who was popularly nicknamed Shakespeare because for the price of a drink she could recite all the speeches of the major female roles in The Merchant of Venice, Hamlet, Macbeth, and King Lear. This talent naturally led to wild speculations about her origins, with most of the locals maintaining that she was of noble birth, and the newspapers capitalized on such rumors. Likewise, her murder, never solved, was exoticized by being attributed to Jack the Ripper, come to New York on vacation."

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