New York in the '50s
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The rhythms of jazz and beat poetry punctuate this sweeping, firsthand account of New York City’s 1950s literary scene from the Bowery to Spanish Harlem
National bestselling author Dan Wakefield first came to New York City in 1952 with the intention of receiving a proper literary education on the ivied campus of Columbia University. An equally enlightening experience, he quickly found, was hiding in the smoky bars and cafés of Greenwich Village frequented by the most talented writers of the fifties, including James Baldwin, Joan Didion, and Allen Ginsberg. Wakefield recounts drinking at the White Horse Tavern, Dylan Thomas’s Village haunt, as well as the offices of Esquire and the Nation, capturing rare, intimate moments of spirited camaraderie between some of the most influential artists of their generation.
Like Hemingway’s recollections of 1920s Paris in A Moveable Feast, New York in the ’50s showcases a city in its artistic heyday, replete with Wakefield’s remembrances of brushing shoulders with literary icons such as Jack Kerouac and Norman Mailer, and watching Thelonious Monk play jazz at the Five Spot Café. Wakefield’s experience as a journalist and chronicler of Americana allows him to capture the subtleties of a decade of unparalleled artistic expression.
“A rich and wonderful work that evokes the restless spirit of that pre-sixties period, that simmering brew that would erupt into the social and sexual transformations marking the Age of Aquarius and the End of Ike.” —Gay Talese
“A precise and moving re-creation of a time and a place when the world seemed small and we knew everyone in it.” —Joan Didion
“New York in the Fifties is a treasure, an open sesame into that golden age of youth when the possibilities seemed endless and the world and we would remain forever young.” —John Gregory Dunne
“Dan Wakefield is our most humane reporter of the sixties—our Stevenson of journalism.” —John Leonard
“Dan Wakefield is a master storyteller.” —Los Angeles Times Book Review
Dan Wakefield (b. 1932) is the author of the bestselling novels Going All the Way and Starting Over, which were both adapted into feature films. His memoirs include New York in the Fifties, which was made into a documentary film of the same name, and Returning: A Spiritual Journey, praised by Bill Moyers as “one of the most important memoirs of the spirit I have ever read.” Wakefield created the NBC prime time series James at 15, and wrote the screenplay for Going All the Way, starring Ben Affleck. He edited and wrote the introduction for Kurt Vonnegut Letters as well as If This Isn’t Nice, What Is?: Vonnegut’s Advice to the Young. Visit Wakefield online at www.danwakefield.com and www.vonnegutsoldestlivingfriend.com.