A welcome opportunity for book readers to discover the pleasures of a periodical that was to the Reagan-Bush era what...


LOW RENT: A Decade of Writing from The Portable Lower East Side

A welcome opportunity for book readers to discover the pleasures of a periodical that was to the Reagan-Bush era what Evergreen Review was to the 1950s. Begun by Hollander in the mid-1980s as a photocopied and stapled bundle, The Portable Lower East Side got some unwanted national exposure in 1992, when conservatives used it as an example of the obscene and blasphemous material funded by the National Endowment for the Arts. Now it can be read on its own terms. New York City's Lower East Side is as much a state of mind as a literal neighborhood: Wherever there are drugs and sex, you're likely to find some of these contributors. When Veronica Vera decided to write an article about ""the game of sex and money,"" she went to The Forty-Second Street Show World Sex Emporium, interviewed employees, and worked one of the ""booths"" herself to gain firsthand experience. Christopher O'Connell's ""Williamsburg Seizure Sites"" details epileptic seizures that, ironically, sound almost identical to the drug-induced states captured by other contributors. Some of the finest stories and memoirs present New York City as viewed by newcomers. Jack Henry Abbott, just released from prison, offers a chilling portrait of the Bowery in 1981, depicting street life that later spread throughout New York City; his increasingly staid, unflinching reactions parallel those of many city-dwellers. Guy-Mark Foster follows the man he loves to a city he knows almost nothing about (except that it's not nearly as clean or peaceful as they city they've left). Hubert Selby, Herbert Huncke, Grace Paley, and photographer Robert Frank are among the better-known contributors. Pieces by Italian, Russian, Hungarian, and Cuban immigrants -- some translated from the authors' foreign-language originals -- recapture the melting-pot flavor the area had 100 years ago, but with a decidedly contemporary in-your-face quality. Some will be offended, but this groundbreaking volume's artistic merit is indisputable.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1994


Page Count: 304

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1994