A vibrant narrative history of three hallowed Manhattan blocks—the epicenter of American cool.
St. Marks Place in New York City has spawned countless artistic and political movements. Here Frank O’Hara caroused, Emma Goldman plotted, and the Velvet Underground wailed. But every generation of miscreant denizens believes that their era, and no other, marked the street’s apex. This idiosyncratic work of reportage tells the many layered history of the street—from its beginnings as Colonial Dutch Director-General Peter Stuyvesant’s pear orchard to today’s hipster playground—organized around those pivotal moments when critics declared “St. Marks is dead.”
In a narrative enriched by hundreds of interviews and dozens of rare images, St. Marks native Ada Calhoun profiles iconic characters from W. H. Auden to Abbie Hoffman, from Keith Haring to the Beastie Boys, among many others. She argues that St. Marks has variously been an elite address, an immigrants’ haven, a mafia warzone, a hippie paradise, and a backdrop to the film Kids—but it has always been a place that outsiders call home. This idiosyncratic work offers a bold new perspective on gentrification, urban nostalgia, and the evolution of a community.
About the Author
Ada Calhoun has written for the New York Times, New York magazine, and the New York Post. Her book St. Marks Is Dead was named a New York Times Editors’ Choice and a Boston Globe Best Book of the Year.
Highbrow / Brilliant. — New York
Fascinating…through exhaustive research and vivid storytelling, Calhoun recounts the happenings and personalities that dotted both the literal and metaphorical landscape of the iconic East Village Street. — Jay Ruttenberg - Village Voice
[E]ssential cultural history…St. Marks is always in its death throes, but Calhoun captures it as an important site of cultural production and transformation. — Adrienne Westenfeld - Esquire
A timely, provocative, and stylishly written book. — John McMillian - The Atlantic
What an entertaining and exhilarating read. Deeply researched and thought-provoking, this book is a joyride through the history of New York. — Jami Attenberg, author of I Came All This Way to Meet You
A rich, gorgeously woven tapestry of capitalism, anarchy, riots, organized crime, literary feuds, con artists, hippies, hipsters, beatniks, deadbeats, punks, revolutionaries, drag queens, chaos, and thrilling, only-in-New York adventure. With a reporter’s eye for detail and a poet’s flair for language, Ada Calhoun has crafted a lush love letter to America’s most fascinating street. — Karen Abbott, author of Sin in the Second City
The New York Dolls, the Ramones, the Velvet Underground, Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, and a million other bands (including mine) spent time on St. Marks Place. Ada Calhoun’s wonderful book tells punk’s story in a totally new and exciting way. Plus, it has more sex-per-page than any cultural history I’ve ever read. — Kathleen Hanna
As a teenager I skateboarded, wrote music, and drank malt liquor on St. Marks Place. After the early ’80s, I thought the street was dead. But in this terrific book Ada Calhoun proves that every generation had its moment. — Adam Horovitz
I love this funny, sad, amazing book. St. Marks Place is the most interesting street in the world, because it doesn’t try to be; it’s abnormal and impossible and ugly and sexy and annoying and inspiring. And the story was written by a St. Marks child, which is probably the only way it could’ve been told. — Colin Quinn
Ada Calhoun’s spellbinding book contains so much riveting history that was heretofore unknown to me, and her portrayal of the characters brings the history alive as vividly as an epic TV drama. For me, St. Marks Place Is Dead rivals Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City.
— Tim Gunn
Roll up. Roll up for the St. Marks Place tour! Ada Calhoun will take you on a hilarious and poignant ride through the history of one of the world’s most storied streets. At once an archaeologist, detective, and charismatic tour guide, Ada unearths the hidden historical gems that give the street its richness and depth. — Lili Taylor