City Notesby Theodore Hamm
Pieces of a Decade
Starting in our June 2010 issue, Williams Cole and I began to republish nonfiction pieces from our archives, as part of a “Best of a Decade” celebration. Originally, we planned to create a contest out of these selections, and I even managed to persuade five estimable friends of the Rail to sign on as judges. Well, over the summer we grew so enthusiastic about this project that we turned it into a handsome hardcover anthology, Pieces of a Decade: Brooklyn Rail Nonfiction, 2000-2010, which comes out later this month from Brooklyn Rail/Black Square Editions. We are indeed quite pleased with this change of fortune—and so, too, are the now-former contest judges.
Now I’m not going to tell you everything that’s in the collection, but I will say that it offers: Howard Zinn’s prophetic critique of the war in Iraq before it happened; Reverend Billy’s gospel alongside that of hardened, unrepentant Marxists; and a wide variety of Whitmanesque odes to Brooklyn’s past and present, as well as to the borough’s future that never shall be. Besides that, it’s the only time that Jane Jacobs and Jason Flores-Williams have been bound between the same two covers. And rest assured that Anders Goldfarb’s photos capture our world. So if you have balls, you’ll buy this book. And if you don’t have balls, you’re still welcome to purchase it.
The first place Pieces of a Decade can be procured is the Brooklyn Book Festival on Sunday, September 12. We’ll be at Booth #188, with our pals from Two Dollar Radio. Starting the following day, you can pick up this fine volume at Spoonbill in Williamsburg and McNally Jackson in NoLIta—soon thereafter, it will be available at other good bookstores, including Greenlight and Unnameable in Brooklyn. We’ll be doing readings at these four establishments starting in October. But I’ll save my hype for those events for next month. October, by the way, is the Rail’s tenth anniversary issue.
The Breslin Challenge
I once heard Jimmy Breslin say that “Anything is interesting, depending on how you write about it.” The following three pieces—about what most people would consider “unappealing places”—boldly try to address that challenge. As for whether each succeeds or fails, you will just have to be the judge.