St. Marks Is Dead: The Many Lives of America’s Hippest Street is part history of the Manhattan hot spot and part memoir. Born to artist-hipster parents, Ms. Calhoun grew up in a walk-up on St. Marks Place before leaving for college and then returning to cast a sophisticated eye on this era’s trend-setting urban tribes. She begins in 1651, when Dutch West India Company administrator Peter Stuyvesant purchased the acreage that is today’s East Village. She ends 364 years later with the zone’s rapid rise (some would argue “steep decline”) of chain retailers and glass-sheathed apartment towers, followed by the scattering of all that’s hip and happening to the outer boroughs. In between we meet Alexander Hamilton, Horatio Alger, Emma Goldman and the Ramones. The book takes its title from a conviction—shared, emphatically, by just about anyone who ever Made the Scene—that a district once deemed the epitome of cool no longer is. What once was trendy, in other words, must inexorably become “dead.” The author concedes: “I missed a lot. I did not love-in or be-in or do anything in. I never sat on a trash can outside the Five Spot jazz club . . . I did not see Andy Warhol introduce the Velvet Underground [or] hang out with the Ramones or the New York Dolls.” Instead she wrote a delightful book. Read the whole review here.
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