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A Walker in the City, Alfred Kazin (1951)

Brownsville in amber, forever

by
Sean Wilentz
September 17, 2013

Nostalgic and lyrical, Kazin’s Brownsville 1920s boyhood book relates incidents but hardly any stories, contains characters—the allrightniks, the cowlicked Stalinist, the pushcart men—but no real protagonists, none except for the teller. His city of half-sour smells and rotten hallways, of seltzer and making good impressions on fearsome P.S. teachers: Kazin remembers every particle, remembers working “on a hairline between triumph and catastrophe,” and delights at how it felt to gain native ground, for good, beneath the Albert Pinkham Ryders in the Brooklyn Museum.

Sean Wilentz teaches at Princeton and writes widely on American history, arts, and letters.

Sean Wilentz teaches at Princeton and writes widely on American history, arts, and letters.

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