I received a free digital ARC from NYU Press via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review
This was a no-brainer for me when I spied it on NetGalley not too long ago. Even though I have never been to New York City, I feel like it is my home. I devour books about the city, its individual boroughs, the whole history from New Amsterdam to now, because I want to know every last detail and try to imagine what life would be like to be a child of NYC. Now, don't get me wrong, I had an amazing childhood and am incredibly lucky and blessed and loved. But if that amazing childhood could have been transplanted to the Village, that would have been most excellent.
The author delves into the history of the street, one street - maybe one of the most famous streets in the entire country, in easily the most famous neighborhood in the country. She weaves together the stories of her life and the lives of those around her with such clarity, and they all flow together well as we see the street change and grow, as the author does along with it.
Florio leaves no stone unturned as she described her unconventional upbringing. Raised on opera and theatre life by her patents, she spent her days and nights among an eclectic and eccentric mix of people who would each leave their definitive mark on her, shaping Florio into the adult she would become.
The author lovingly recounts all the good and bad related to roaming the Village as a child, youth, and adult. We see firsthand the neighbors who came and went, the cast of characters who simply could not be made up - this is the Village. I found her story about accidentally dumping water on John Lennon's head quite amusing, which apparently he did too. Yoko, on the other hand, did not seem as pleased. Reading her account of the brief time in which Sid Vicious was her next-door neighbor was especially touching.
There were also plenty of encounters with regular every-day people as well and Florio specifically recounts the AIDS crisis hitting the Village hard. To read of her pain and fear in the wake of the attacks on September 11th was especially powerful - this place she loved so much, this place that had seeped into her bones and became part of her, was suddenly unrecognizable. Still, she slowly but surely found her way back from those awful days, weeks, months.
Greenwich Village and Bank Street in particular owe a huge debt of gratitude to Florio. She so beautifully captured the beating heart of the neighborhood, describing with such perfection the changing village over the passing decades. The Village of her youth is long gone, and typing those words truly brings more than a touch of sadness; never again will such a mix of colorful characters exist in this way together. The culture that thrived despite the truly glaring differences of those who inhabited the buildings along Bank Street can never be recaptured in reality, so I am thankful that Florio has done that so splendidly here.
This is a must-read for anyone with a love for all things NYC. Highly highly recommended.