Wall Street used to be a wall protecting the Dutch city from Lenape attacks? New York Times staff defended its headquarters with gatling guns during the draft riots? A Bowery tattoo artist adapted an obscure Edison invention into the first electric tattoo gun?
This city, with its centuries of struggle and ambition, squatting and racketeering, backstabbing and palmgreasing, is knee-deep in history, even as rapacious development tries to erase it. Everywhere we turn, layers of this turbulent past hide in plain sight, waiting to tell us about the past and fire our imaginations about the future.
Starting this spring, McNally Jackson Williamsburg will be hosting a reading group dedicated to the history of New York City. The material will be eclectic, and will include journalism, memoir, sociology, biography, and utopian science fiction. Whether you can trace your ancestry to Peter Suyvesant or arrived here three weeks ago, whether your great grandpa sold pickles on Hester Street or your mom paid for your dorm on Third Avenue, New York is your home, so come immerse yourself in its lore. Remember: history is not just the past, it's also the future.
Readings will include the following:
Gangs of New York by Herbert Asbury
Low Life by Luc Sante
The Big Oyster: History on the Half Shell by Mark Kurlansky
The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man by James Weldon Johnson
Turn, Magic Wheel by Dawn Powell
The Power Broker by Robert Caro
Ladies and Gentlemen the Bronx is Burning by Jonathan Mahler
Gentrification of the Mind by Sarah Schulman
Spook Country by William Gibson
New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson
The reading assignment for the meeting on May 17th is Gangs of New York, chapters 1-8.