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James Wolcott’s Memoir, ‘Lucking Out,’ Gets Down and Semi-Dirty in the East Village

lucking outCourtesy of Doubleday

Luckily for East Villagers, James Wolcott’s memoir of his days as a young culture critic in a now nearly vanished city, “Lucking Out: My Life Getting Down and Semi-Dirty in Seventies New York,” places much of its meat and potatoes (along with plenty of gravy) right here in our very own backyard. Steering a middle course between the sometimes overly concentrated, every-word-counts prose of his Vanity Fair columns, and the more loosey-goosey style he deploys in his blog at the same publication, Mr. Wolcott reconfirms his position as New York’s wittiest critic.

Despite its pleasing portability (the book, out later this month, comes in at about 270 pages), “Lucking Out” covers plenty of ground, bopping from Mr. Wolcott’s mice-ridden “man-cave” on East 12th Street, down to CBGB, and back up to the Village Voice, where he made his name. It slides west for a gawk at the gay heyday of the West Village, then uptown for some quality time among the balletomanes of Lincoln Center (with a pause for skuzzy “Taxi Driver”-era Times Square porn along the way), and includes countless screening room séances with his mentor and muse, the late New Yorker film critic, Pauline Kael, to whom large portions of the book can be seen as an extended and touching valentine. Read more…

For Patti Smith, Poetry and Memories

IMG_0977Caryn Rose Patti Smith performed Wednesday night at a celebration commemorating the 40th anniversary of her first reading at The Poetry Project.

The headstones filling the old churchyard at St. Mark’s Church-in-the Bowery churchyard lay buried beneath a deep blanket of snow on Wednesday night. But a line of people on East 10th Street braved an icy chill while waiting to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Patti Smith’s first reading at The Poetry Project, a St. Mark’s institution, which took place at the church on Feb. 10, 1971.

From that distant beginning, Ms. Smith’s lengthy career has gone on to include world wide recognition as a visual artist, songwriter, photographer, musician and writer. In 2010 she won the National Book Award for her memoir, “Just Kids,” describing her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe.

The Poetry Project, founded at St. Mark’s in 1966, has included weekly readings, open mike events, and workshops provide a forum where both celebrated and unknown writers can present their work. John Ashbery, Robert Lowell, Yoko Ono, Ted Berrigan, Alice Walker, Allen Ginsberg, and Robert Creeley are a few of those whose words have filled the vaulted chamber.

In 1971 Patti Smith viewed the full moon that illuminated the sky that night as a fortuitous sign. Gerard Malanga, an assistant to Andy Warhol at The Factory, and featured reader of the program, generously allowed Patti Smith to open for him.
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