Saturday, February 19, 2011

Book: Pieces of a Decade

To commemorate their first decade in print, the Brooklyn Rail published a hardcover book that included some of the editors' (Theodore Hamm and Williams Cole, above) favorite nonfiction articles in an anthology titled Pieces of a Decade: Brooklyn Rail Nonfiction 2000-2010.

I've been reading the book piecemeal since I picked up a copy at last fall's rainy Brooklyn Book Festival. It's a great read. There are articles like 'What They Eat in Brighton Beach' by Marjory Garrison that does little more than chronicle an elderly Jewish couples' eating habits, to an explosive 'Farewell to CBGB' penned by Jason Flores-Williams.

As alt-papers drop like flies across ye olde United States, Pieces of a Decade testifies to the Rail's importance as a relevent and sacred cultural institution.

My favorite piece is the opening essay by Matthew Vaz called 'Coney Island Beer Hustle,' which profiles the characters loafing or stalking the boardwalk, that absolutely nails the place: "We got cold Coronas. We got cold Heinekens. Ice cold! We got Ferrone Malone, Stephon Marbury, and Allan Houston on parole. We got Lincoln High School's finest just tryin' to make some money out here. We got John Freakin' Doe. We got Russian gangsters, dope pushers, thousand dollar hookers, whole blocks - no, whole buildings from Sunset Park. We got Mexicans with long pants planning on getting shorts just happy to be alive breathing the air. We got neck tattoos, C-section scars, and nail tips with the Puerto Rican flag. We got cops checking out tits, just trying to keep everybody safe, and Osama bin Lade is nowhere in sight.

"This is Russia, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Surfside Gardens, Marlboro Projects. We got whatever you need out here. This is Coney Island, Brooklyn, New York City."

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