Read A Walker in the City by Alfred Kazin Online


Kazin’s memorable description of his life as a young man as he makes the journey from Brooklyn to “americanca”-the larger world that begins at the other end of the subway in Manhattan. A classic portrayal of the Jewish immigrant culture of the 1930s. Drawings by Marvin Bileck....

Title : A Walker in the City
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780156941761
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 192 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

A Walker in the City Reviews

  • James Murphy
    2018-11-30 17:44

    My reading and enjoyment of Teju Cole's novel Open City last spring inspired me to reread A Walker in the City because I thought I saw similarities in the two. Cole's meditative story about an immigrant doctor in residence wandering New York City reflecting on what he sees and the rich brew of thoughts it all brings to mind reminded me of Kazin's memoir because that's how I remembered it. I was surprised to discover it's not quite that way. As a boy Kazin did explore and wander a bit. To say it was the compulsive directionless walking of a deeply introspective man is to misrepresent it.Kazin became introspective, of course. He became one of our foremost intellectual minds. During the course of his memoir, though, he's a boy. Instead of encompassing the entire city, Kazin's focus is more local: the subway, the synagogue, and the kitchen. It's a memoir of a boyhood spent in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, at the time a Jewish neighborhood with much Old World flavor. There is movement in the book. The man Kazin became rides the subway to step into the pool of nostalgia he finds in his old neighborhood. From that penetration the focus expands outward to remember how the boy's curiosity and increasing awareness encouraged him to move into newer environments. The synagogue and the busy family kitchen are early centers of life. As he grows his world broadens to the block and to nearby streets. The last section is indeed a walk, to Highland Park where he stands on the edge of the wider world, ready to leave Brownsville.This is very much a memoir of what it was like to grow up in a section of the city dominated by Jewish families and their way of life so reminiscent of Europe. Kazin vividly records it all. In his beautifully modulated prose, one of the hallmarks of Kazin's oeuvre, he remembers the even spacing of horse dung in the street, the regular pat of a ball bouncing against a wall, all the sights and food smells of clamoring businesses and play around him recorded as rhythmically as a boy's steps on a sidewalk. He carefully makes the distinction between American and Jewish cultures. Standing within Brownsville and its protective Jewish atmosphere, the outside was American. It's intensely nostalgic for him, the remembered arc of learning and growth from child to boy on the cusp of manhood ready to make those first steps into an academic life and away from Brownsville forever. As we know, Kazin's journey was one of significant literary importance. In A Walker in the City, the opening volume of an autobiographical trilogy, he revisits the beginning of that journey to record how the first boyhood steps in the synagogue, the kitchen, and the street gave direction to the man he became.

  • Douglas Dalrymple
    2018-11-25 22:30

    The word was my agony. The word that for others was so effortless and so neutral, so unburdened, so simple, so exact, I had first to meditate in advance, to see if I could make it, like a plumber fitting together odd lengths and shapes of pipe.Like Moses, Alfred Kazin had a stutter. He found his Aaron in pen and paper, as this gorgeous memoir proves. Each of the book’s four sections traces a walking route through the immigrant Brooklyn neighborhood of Kazin’s youth and adolescence in the 1920s and early ‘30s. He summons up a past of pungent detail, full of remarkable characters and personal histories. His discovery of books, of the adventure of language in Whitman and the King James Bible, are especially poignant. I’m adding this one to my shelf of favorite, brief autobiographies, next to Pritchett and Gosse.

  • Andrew
    2018-11-21 22:21

    Kazin has a remarkable gift for turning a phrase. In his hands, memory is as dynamic and lively as a movie. Imagine, if you will, an American version of Walter Benjamin, a Bernard Malamud who writes nonfiction, and a Sherwood Anderson transported to an urban environment, and then combine the three. You pretty much have Alfred Kazin. Lord this was good. He can write something that's nostalgic and even sentimental, but make it moving instead of cloying, and that's a rare gift indeed.

  • Matt
    2018-11-23 17:48

    Kazin writes about growing up in a Jewish community in Brooklyn before the depression. As a New Yorker, and a lover of New York history, this stood out to me, but I think it really has universal appeal. Kazin is a fascinating man, and his struggles with issues like community and self-identity are easily identifiable.

  • Gregg
    2018-11-29 16:38

    I read this about a decade ago, and forgot all about it until today. A wonderful look at life in "The City" from days gone by.When I lived in Brooklyn, I used to go to a Chinese restaurant near my apartment. I stopped by one afternoon to pick up dinner, and saw the owners all dressed up-a well preserved 20 year old suit, camera, fedora, etc. for the man. His wife was wearing a flower print dress, and had her her all done up. They told me it was their wedding anniversary, and that they were going over to Manhattan for the first time in 40 years!This book evokes some of those memories of when people rarely left their neighborhoods-they had everything they needed within a one or two block area.

  • Laura Tanenbaum
    2018-11-13 18:32

    Every New Yorker has her own map of things as they were, things as they have become. In his memoir, the critic Alfred Kazin gives us is - the insular Bronzeville, Brooklyn neighborhood of the twenties and thirties, when Jewish immigrants discussed socialism and longed to join the "all right-niks" on Eastern Parkway. It's common to praise memoirs for being "without nostalgia or sentimentality" - but such a thing is rarely possible. This book is bathed in both, but to beautiful effect, giving us a window onto one of the city's many lost worlds - long gone even as Kazin is writing over 60 years ago - a welcome antidote to the latest article that talks about Brooklyn being "discovered" ten years ago or some such.

  • Karima
    2018-11-26 20:45

    A WALKER IN THE CITY, is a kind of sensory tour Kazin's childhood in Brownsville, NYC. It begins, "Every time I go back to Brownsville it is as if I had never been away. From the moment I step off the train at Rockaway Avenue and smell the leak out of the men's room, then the pickles from the stand just below the subway steps, an instant rage comes over me, mixed with dread and some unexpected tenderness... As I walk those familiarly choked streets at dusk and see the old women sitting in front of the tenements, past and present become each other's faces; I am back where I began." This book is on my TOP 10 list. Highly recommended.

  • Terri
    2018-12-11 18:28

    Allowed me to live another person's discovery of life and words through walking the streets of East Brooklyn and beyond. I had only vaguely heard of Alfred Kazin, and the library copy is old and damaged ... I am thankful for the serendipity that brought me to this book!

  • Henry
    2018-11-19 20:35

    Incredibly lyrical book detailing childhood in 1920s Brooklyn. A New York must!

  • Megan Geissler
    2018-12-04 18:34

    Identity, urban development, memory, bygone eras, etc. Quite a splendid ode to author's Brooklyn childhood and cool glimpse of race relations and immigration back in the early- to mid-2oth century. I was compelled to keep learning about the evolution of Brownsville from an end-of-the-line Jewish settlement to disrepair and predominantly black housing developments - literally the periphery of society for generations of poor folk. The scenes were very evocative and lively, full of emotion and epiphanies: ladies on stoops, visits to the library, playing hardball against building walls, rotting linoleum floors, clotheslines, corner preachers, the socialists vs the communists, the El, trips to the beach, the movie theaters, the candy store. Really liked this a lot.

  • Christinep
    2018-11-14 17:40

    I loved this book, but perhaps if you had never lived here in New York it wouldn’t have quite the same effect. But no matter what, his writing is so descriptive and evocative of growing up as a first generation American, that I would recommend it to anyone.

  • Christian
    2018-12-10 20:46

    Good for what it is -- I just forgot that I can't get into autobios

  • Wendy
    2018-11-14 20:38

    The New York of Kazin's youth, in the decade before the Depression, comes alive on the pages of this memoir as he revisits humble scenes in Brownsville and beyond, lingering along the way over sensory detail. One example from near the end, during the very hot summer of his sixteenth year: "Ripeness filled our kitchen even at supper time. The room was so wild with light, it made me tremble; I could not believe my eyes. In the sink a great sandy pile of radishes, lettuces, tomatoes, cucumbers, and scallions broke up on their stark greens and reds the harshness of the world's daily monotony. The window shade by the sewing machine was drawn, its tab baking in the sun. Through the screen came the chant of the score being called up from the last handball game below. Our front door was open, to let in air; you could hear the boys on the roof scuffing their shoes against the gravel. Then, my father home to the smell of paint in the hall [he was a painter], we sat down to chopped cucumbers floating in the ice-cold borscht, radishes and tomatoes and lettuce in sour cream, a mound of corn just out of the pot steaming on the table, the butter slowly melting in a cracked blue soup plate--breathing hard against the heat, we sat down together at last."The writing itself seems to be from another time, so free of cynicism and filled with pathos. Anyone interested in the 1930s or the history of New York should read this book, but it's worth reading and re-reading for the language alone.

  • Rick
    2018-11-19 23:25

    These memory pieces by the famous, post WWII literary critic, all begin or end in Brownsville, the neighborhood in Brooklyn that was Kazin’s childhood home. Mostly they’re perfect. Only the longest one, “The Block and Beyond,” suffers from trying too hard to be lyrical. Otherwise, they are wonderfully observant recollections of time, place, and culture that bring to life parts of New York City from the 1920s and 30s in vivid description and colorful anecdote. I am 30 years behind Kazin so some of what he remembers is history come to life, places long changed or even gone (Brooklyn farmland, trolleys). Others were still part of the city of my childhood day—the street games (handball, box ball, and other variations) life before universal air-conditioning, and stoops and candy stores as cultural centers. And some few others are still part of the city we inhabit (the Brooklyn Bridge, the Staten Island Ferry, Coney Island and its new Russian immigrants, the litany of Brooklyn subway stops that include DeKalb and Atlantic avenues among many others). It’s a slender book, artfully written, except those few passages that read like James Agee’s too artful prose on the same topic of Brooklyn. Engaging and moving.

  • Bob
    2018-12-08 19:50

    An amazing memoir of Kazin's passage from a young Jewish boy growing up in Brownstone, Brooklyn in the 1920s, discovering the greater world around him through books, poetry, and wandering the streets of New York. Kazin doesn't just "tell" the story - he lives it on each page, drawing the reader into his shoes and his head as he finds his place in the world, and then as he returns to that scene some 20 years later and walks the streets and subways once more, remembering and reflecting and relearning. Although my dad started his life in that same place four years after Kazin was born, he left for Connecticut a few years later; nonetheless, I couldn't help thinking about his own childhood discoveries of the world beyond Brooklyn - and beyond Connecticut - that led him to a life of world travel and diplomatic service.

  • Deedee
    2018-11-15 19:26

    Nostalgia gone wild!Four autobiographical essays of life as a young Jewis boy living in New York City from 1920's - 1930's."From the Subway to the Synagogue"-I was the first American child - All teachers were to be respected like gods - blue collar workers (painters) - the delicatessen - the movie theatre - the synagogue with the people from the same European village"The Kitchen"Jewishness - the Sabbath - and his mother"The Block and Beyond"pick-up softball in the streets - travels outside of the neighborhood, trolleys, Brooklyn Bridge, Metropolitan Museum of Art"Summer: The Way to Highland Park"

  • Liam
    2018-12-01 18:28

    "[I]t puzzled me that no one around me seemed to take God very seriously. We neither believed nor disbelieved. He was our oldest habit." (46)"Life was a battle to 'make sure'; it had no place, as we had no time, for whims." (57)"There seemed to be no middle ground between despair and the fury of our ambition." (70)"In Yiddish we broke all the windows to let a little air into the house." (119)"This [summer] light will not go out until I have lodged it in every crack and corner of me first." (165)

  • David Golib
    2018-12-06 17:39

    This book was an extraordinary read. The author reminisces over his childhood growing up in a poor Jewish community on the outskirts of New York: he then goes much deeper touching questions that we ask ourselves (or have ever asked ourselves) as teenagers/young adults grasping to understand our various identities and their place in this industrialized enigma. It is about finding your place in the world and making peace with the one that has passed. Alfred Kazin speaks to our conscience through his own.

  • Lisa
    2018-11-25 15:32

    This is a beautifully detailed description of the ambiance of walking through 1930's Brooklyn. The author returned home and describes his walks to the synagogue, his home, the shops and people of the neighborhood, and the leisure activities of the neighborhood. There isn't any character development or plot, just place and time. It is beautifully nostalgic. I recognize similarities between his 1930's Brooklyn Jewish experience to my 1960's queens Italian background including the garment district and the immigrant enclaves.

  • Anita
    2018-12-10 21:23

    Took me back, although not as far back as the author, to the neighborhoods that I passed through on the LL train. That's right it was the LL and the last stop was Canarsie. It may be hard to understand, especially for "newbies" in Brooklyn, but Brooklyn was a city. And to this day, thre are people who have never left their neighborhoods. Kazin talks about gettting off the block and and what it was like to go to Manhattan, crossing the bridge. Great read!

  • Debbie
    2018-11-15 17:34

    This is a memoir about Alfred Kazin growing up in Brownsville in Brooklyn, NY. Brownsville is a poor Jewish town. Kazin goes on walks around the city and outside Brownsville and poetically describes his walks. The book read like prose poetry and a travel narrative to me. This book wasn't my cup of tea and that's why I gave it a low rating.

  • Dan Lalande
    2018-11-27 21:36

    Journalist/critic Alfred Kazin's sensorial re-immersion into the Brownsville (Brooklyn) of his youth, a Whitmanesque inventory of the sights, sounds and smells of the Eastern European immigrant universe of the 1920's. The prose is high-minded but the perspective is sour; Kazin escaped, through literature, not with survivor's laughter but with tears that never dried.

  • Rachel S
    2018-11-22 19:30

    if you love nyc, hate nyc but cant seem to shake nyc, kazin's racing heart and vision as he walks and walks from boro to boro, brings memories, even if you've not walked the same road as he did. kazin is a must read for writers, he writes as a writer, not as someone wanting to be a writer-there's no on/off switch. you absorb life from reading his work.

  • Helen
    2018-11-14 21:28

    Kazin has some lovely, lyrical descriptions, but his fixation on geographical place falls flat for me. It is only when he speaks of the emotions places evoke and the characters that the author has encountered that his prose starts to soar.

  • Florence
    2018-11-20 21:45

    The author's coming of age story from Brownsville in Brooklyn to the outside world in a poetic odyssy. I could feel the summer heat on the pavements. I could smell the food cooking in his tenement apartment.

  • Amy
    2018-11-20 18:24

    A little dry at times, but mostly full of beautiful prose describing the authors life in New York and how the streets shaped him. I enjoyed that it offers much to be pondered and is subtle enough to avoid being a typical "coming of age" story.

  • Henry Sturcke
    2018-11-27 19:22

    Hailed by people whose opinion I respect as one of the greatest of all memoirs; I'm not in a position to judge, since I probably haven't read as many as those who confidently make such pronouncements. But I'm glad they pointed me toward this; it is very, very good.

  • Cort Gross
    2018-11-24 18:24

    right there with Luis Mumford on walking the City---told here from a Jewish kid in NYC's prespective. this is one of those books like Didion's "Slouching..."---which I return to annually to remember what a good essay is---this one I dip into frequently to see how to write about cities.

  • Doug Arbesfeld
    2018-12-10 16:39

    I'm still reading this and loving it.A very moving depiction the life of first generation and immigrant Jews in Brooklyn in the 1920s and 30s. I can smell the pickles and herring being sold from pushcarts on Blake ave.

  • Anita
    2018-11-15 23:21

    This is a magical book that seamlessly flows from one chapter to the next, all without a traditional "plot." It's about what it feels like to grow up from a sensory perspective. So glad I read it. And it doesn't take long to finish.