Sunday, January 21, 2007
NIGHT CITY, 1892
posted 3:02 PM
If historian Timothy J. Gilfoyle's A Pickpocket's Tale: The Underworld of Nineteenth-Century New York had been available when Bruce Sterling and I were writing The Difference Engine, we'd definitely have had to spend more quality time in Karl Marx's Manhattan Commune, most likely in the company of a natty, one-eyed Chinese-Irish pickpocket named George Appo. (As it was, we didn't have Luc Sante's magnificent Low Life either, which would have had a similar effect.) Gilfoyle's book, written around Appo's unpublished autobiography, opens high-resolution windows on a universe previously glimpsed (even with Sante) as relatively shadowy fragments. Aside from making the opium joints of Mott Street more familiar than one ever hoped they could be, the book also depicts the now forgotten criminal industry of "green goods" scammers, which took full advantage of the nation's newly efficient postal system. The green goods operators may well have been the first spammers, mailing millions of circulars to potential rubes all over America.
Highly recommended if you like this sort of thing (if you do, you know you do) and thanks to Jack Womack for hooking me up.
Meanwhile, in the 21st Century, not that far from Mott Street, the mellowness of weathered, multi-level graffiti, in an ever more earnestly regooded Manhattan, is starting to remind me of some endangered species of moss:
Friday, January 19, 2007
FINALLY MADE IT THROUGH THE TOUGH SPRINGY MEMBRANE OF THE NEW, "IMPROVED" BLOGGER
posted 8:01 PM
But it required the very considerable help of this Hieronymous Bosch action figure, who waddled under the edge of the tent, so to speak.