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Posts Tagged ‘paul auster’

Colossally Sordid: An Interview with Luc Sante

October 27, 2015 | by

Luc Sante. Photo © Laura Levine

With the publication of Low Life: Lures and Snares of Old New York, in 1991, Luc Sante established himself as one of New York City’s most imaginative elegists. The book was a shrewd chronicle of Lower Manhattan abjection from the mid-nineteenth through the early twentieth centuries—but also a call for a more expansive sense of historical memory, one with room not just for the banking magnate and the besooted proletarian behind him but for the guy behind him, too, with the chewed-off ear and the shiv. Sante followed Low Life in 1992 with Evidence, a collection of startling and often sublime crime-scene photographs taken by the NYPD in the 1910s, a project in which Sante afforded his poor tenant-dwellers more dignity than many of them could claim in their abbreviated lives. Since then he’s contributed regularly to The New York Review of Books; written the liner notes of the Anthology of American Folk Music and translated Félix Fénéon’s Novels in Three Lines; published an autobiography of sorts, The Factory of Facts; and released a collection of essays, Kill All Your Darlings. 

His new book, The Other Paris, magnifies the crime, grime, and scrappy, world-reverberating insubordination of Parisians down through history. Sante’s Other Paris is the one that belongs to le Peuple and always has—to the prostitutes, the ragpickers, the laundresses, the pickpockets, the North Africans, Roma, and Jews, the pop singers and tattooed gang members (the apaches, many of whom “had a dotted line around their necks, to guide the blade of the guillotine”), the insurgents on the barricades and the Illegalist bomb throwers, the ones who got their heads cut off and the ones who physically did the cutting. Perhaps most of all, the Other Paris belongs to the flaneurs, the original dandies in the underworld, in whose tradition Sante has followed as a first-rate observer and reassembler of Paris, making this book the most recent contribution to the venerable body of literature that has sought to capture Paris the way it really was and is, from the vantage of the street rather than the street view.

Flaneurie is a huge part of The Other Paris—you call the flaneur the “exemplar of this book.” Since flaneurs have been the truest historians of Paris, did you find the act of walking at all important to your research? For as much consideration as you give to the social consequences of the built environment, it seems like a dérive or two might go a long way toward finding the essence of Paris from “the accumulated mulch of the city itself,” to borrow a phrase from Low Life.

When I wasn’t at the movies, I was walking. I walked all over the city, repeatedly—I kept journals of my walks, which are actually just lists of the sequences of streets. Even though the city isn’t as interesting as it once was—modern construction and commercial real-estate practices have wiped out so much of the old eccentricity—there are still hidden corners and ornery survivals, and of course the topography is such a determinant. New York City is more or less flat and what isn’t was mostly leveled long ago, so it’s missing that aspect of accommodation to hills and valleys and plateaux, not to mention the laying out of streets on a human scale long before urban planning scaled things to the demands of machines. Read More »

On Not Thinking Like a Writer, and Other News

November 26, 2013 | by


  • “The artist must avoid thinking like a writer.” The letters of Cézanne.
  • “It isn’t only about droll or absurd situations, it’s about the language used to describe those situations.” Paul Auster on Samuel Beckett.
  • In honor of Umberto Eco’s Legendary Lands, maps of imaginary lands.
  • “Last December, on a Sunday like so many Boston Sundays, one that began in sunshine but gave way to snow showers, three hundred members of Old South Church gathered for a congregational meeting. After hours of debate following weeks of discussion, they voted to sell one of their two copies of the Bay Psalm Book.” Casey N. Cep on America’s first book.


    See You There: St. Mark’s Fundraiser

    November 25, 2013 | by


    Image via Blogcitylights.

    Over the past months, we have closely followed the efforts of our friends at St. Mark’s Bookshop to find a permanent, affordable home in Manhattan’s East Village. Now, the owners have announced plans for a December 5 fundraiser to help them move to a smaller home a few blocks east of their current Third Avenue location. Both in-store and online, you will be able to bid on signed first editions by the likes of Anne Carson, Lydia Davis, and Paul Auster.



    On the Shelf

    February 8, 2012 | by

    Zora Neale Hurston, 1938. Photographer: Carl Van Vechten.

    A cultural news roundup.

  • RIP, John Christopher.
  • Brighten your day! The world’s most beautiful bookstores.
  • Book (review) clubs.
  • The Rings of Saturn, coming to a theater near you.
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God, coming to a radio near you.
  •, coming to a store near you?
  • R. Crumb (among others) turns the Western canon into graphic novels.
  • David Foster Wallace’s keeper shelf.
  • Mona Lisa’s double.
  • Pirates of Lexicon Valley.
  • Bloomsbury Group antics: expensive.
  • “If you come, so what? If you don’t come, so what? Will Turkey lose prestige?” Auster v. Erdogan.
  • The museum of human gullibility.
  • “12 Globe-Shaped Foods. Top 10 Famous Buses. 40 Culturally Relevant Birds. 13 High-Tech Steampunk USB Flash Drives.” Why we like lists.