Growing Up Bank StreetPosted: April 21, 2021
Growing Up Bank Street: A Greenwich Village Memoir
NYU Press (March 9, 2021), 239 pages
Kindle edition $14.72, Amazon hardcover $16.99
This book appeared as a full-page advertisement in The New York Times Book Review and I thought that it would be exactly the sort of thing I would enjoy reading. I was correct.
Donna Florio grew up in an apartment at 63 Bank Street in Greenwich Village. Her parents worked in the world of opera, so between that and the location of her home she had quite the eclectic upbringing. As an adult she returned to that building and lived in a different apartment, so she has had a lifelong familiarity with the building and the neighborhood.
She writes both about the people in her own building and about the people in the larger Bank Street district of Greenwich Village. Her own building housed people in show business, the mentally unbalanced, and even for a time a major figure in the United States Communist party. As an adult, one of her upstairs neighbors loved cooking gourmet meals for the tenants.
Bank Street residents in other buildings included CBS newsman Charles Kuralt, Episcopal Bishop Paul Moore, the novelist John Dos Passos, and Marion Tanner, the woman on whom Auntie Mame was allegedly based, Tanner’s nephew having written the original novel. He both assisted her financially with income from the book, the play, and the musical, and at the same time denied that she was the inspiration for Auntie Mame.
Archeologists, movie stars, trust-fund babies, and college professors did indeed live next to secretaries and sanitation workers.
Bank Street was a fascinating place filled with fascinating people and Florio brings it to life.