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From the Birth of Punk to the Land of Bush: Thirty Years of Apocalyptic Journalism

by Mark Jacobson

Pub Date: May 1st, 2005
ISBN: 0-8021-7008-0
Publisher: Black Cat/Grove

Jazzy, under-the-skin forays into all manner of New York City life, from journalist Jacobson (12,000 Miles in the Nick of Time, 2003, etc.).

Jacobson’s collection of articles from The Village Voice, Rolling Stone, Esquire and New York magazine display his reportorial skills at their best. He’s a street writer who melts into the background and lets his subjects speak for themselves, for better or worse. The material covers a 30-year passage through the city, from the cool cosmology of punk magazine impresario Legs McNeil and the fortunes of blaxploitation movie star Pam Grier to the pounding aftermath of 9/11: “This is home. The fuckers had come to my home. New York, where the trains always ran, even now.” The anthology inevitably includes some dated lingo, as well as displays of all-knowing, youthful fatuousness (“After all, what were hippies if not white kids acting like blacks?”), but it also shows off such prime investigative journalism as Jacobson’s account of drug-dealer Frank Lucas using Henry Kissinger’s plane to smuggle marijuana out of Asia. (Henry was not an accomplice.) The range of his journalistic endeavors is marvelous, from checking out the mysterious death of Bruce Lee, delivering a baseball cap to the Dalai Lama (“These Dodgers—they are exiles from their native country . . . like Tibetans!”), describing the night shift of a New York City cabbie, taking measure of the gangs of Chinatown, hanging out on sleazy street corners. “I experience as a New Yorker first, a citizen of the city,” Jacobson writes: he rides the N train at the worst of times, hates the Yankees, feels a pang when his mother sells the family house in Queens.

Personal, savvy journalism that will make readers stop in their tracks and ponder. Provocation, in a word, and Jacobson will trade you slap for slap.