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YOU MUST REMEMBER THIS: An Oral History of Manhatt by Jeff Kisseloff

YOU MUST REMEMBER THIS: An Oral History of Manhatt

By Jeff Kisseloff

Pub Date: April 24th, 1989
ISBN: 15-187988-5
Publisher: Harcourt

First-time book-writer Kisseloff has roamed Gotham collecting the reminiscences of New Yorkers of what life was like in the Big Apple from the Mauve Decade to the bombing of Pearl Harbor. His findings, rendered in the interviewees' own words, present a lively portrait of a city and an age. Among the dozens of colorful personalities interviewed here are 88-year-old Alice Tibbets, once the lover of Edgar Lee Masters and still a resident of the Chelsea Hotel, and Richard Bruce Nugent, whose homosexual reveries, published in the Harlem Renaissance journal Fire!, shocked even "liberated" radicals of the Twenties. Kisseloff organizes his material brilliantly, weaving his interviewees' opinions into a lively dialogue. For example, when a former hiring boss insists that he never saw any pay-offs among West Side longshoremen, Kisseloff follows with a quote from a local parish priest with sharper eyes. Typical are the varied opinions of Eugene O'Neill by those who knew the playwright. To one, he was "a nice guy," while another reports, "I stayed as far away from him as I could." The author divides his material into ten sections, each focusing on one area of Manhattan. He introduces these with gracefully written, often irreverent essays, dotted with memorable descriptions: "[Hell's Kitchen's history is probably best recorded in police blotters": "[Annie Walsh was] the most feared female brick-hurler of her time." And scattered throughout are fascinating bits of information: why shoes were shipped with all the lefts in one case and all the rights in another; when the last working farm on Manhattan closed down: the name of the last person to be hanged in Washington Square. A lusty, lovable look at a New York that lives on only in the memories of a few.