New York in the ’50sPosted: July 20, 2020
New York in the ’50s
Open Road Media (February 9, 2016), 355 pages
Originally published in 1992
Kindle edition $9.99, Amazon paperback $16.24
Purchased during an Early Bird Books sale for $2.99
I had never read any Dan Wakefield. I was only familiar with him as a novelist from his place on the paperback fiction shelf during my days at B. Dalton Bookseller. In this case, however, the title was intriguing and the price was right.
While the title might suggest history or sociology, New York in the ‘50s is in fact autobiography. Wakefield describes his desire to leave his native Indiana and his arrival at Columbia University. He talks about his college years and his decision like many of his fellow and sister students to stay on in New York City after graduation.
Wakefield describes his attempts, generally successful, to survive as a freelance writer and reporter in the city. He recounts his covering Dorothy Day and her hospitality house along with the struggles of drug addicts and those who worked to help them. He writes about life in Greenwich Village and hanging out at the literary watering hole, a bar called the White Horse.
The author is honest about the newness and initial awkwardness of sex and relationships. He is candid about his struggles with depression and alcohol and about his dependence on analysis, something he did five days a week and which ate up a good share of his income.
Ultimately Wakefield found New York stifling and a journalism fellowship allowed him to go to Boston. It was only after leaving the city that he published hist first novel, Going All the Way. But his time in New York makes for entertaining and at times enlightening reading.