St. Marks is dead : the many lives of America's hippest street

by Ada Calhoun

Hardcover, 2015





New York : W. W. Norton & Company, 2015.


St. Marks Place in New York City has spawned countless artistic and political movements, providing a backdrop for social and cultural revolutionaries from Leon Trotsky to Andy Warhol, the Ramones to the Beastie Boys, W. H. Auden to Keith Haring, Allen Ginsberg to the skaters of the movie Kids. Every group has maintained that their era, and no other, marked the street's apex, and that after they left--whether "they" were the Beats, the hippies, the punks, or the hardcore kids--the street was dead. In this idiosyncratic work of narrative history, enriched by more than two hundred interviews and dozens of rare images, St. Marks native Ada Calhoun uncovers the largely unknown 400-year history of this epicenter of American cool. She traces the street from its origins as a Dutch farm to its current incarnation as a hipster playground--organized around those pivotal moments when yet another group of miscreant denizens declared, "St. Marks is dead."--Adapted from book jacket.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member froxgirl
A light history about a short street with a big life. The author covers the Stuyvestants to the chain stores, and the comings and goings of various ethnic groups and retail stores. Music coverage is particularly vivid, with lots of valuable nuggets on the punk and No Wave eras. Entertaining photos abound.

"During lulls, she read books about the black experience, like Malcolm X's autobiography, as if studying for a test that the whole neighborhood was about to take."… (more)
LibraryThing member lisapeet
I enjoyed this a lot. The NYC history went beyond the usual, and I enjoyed the way she framed it through the street's cyclical cycle of hipsterdom (and the inevitable disappointment when its nature shifts). Full disclosure: I was a St. Marks hanger-outer in the first half of the '80s, one of those annoying little punks with a homemade haircut sitting on stoops drinking quarts of Ballantine's Ale out of paper bags with my friends... we were the reason all the stoops have gates now. (Sorry!) But it was a fun and exciting time in my life, and I have a certain amount of distanced nostalgia for it now that I'm an old fart. So aside from the general biography of a place, it was neat to hear reports from people I haven't seen in years, acquaintances and store owners and local legends. The place is damn near unrecognizable to me now, but I like Calhoun's concept of it as an identity-shifting locale.

Definitely a good read for NY history buffs and ex–East Villagers (of which I'm both).
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