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Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » Notable New York: The West Side & Greenwich Village: A Walking Guide to the Historic Homes of Famous (and Infamous) New Yorkers (Notable New York series) » User review

I despair

  • Oct 26, 2007
This is a remarkable book. The author has divided the western half of Manhattan, from Greenwich Village up to 106th Street, into four parts, and then further divided each part into sections of no more than a few blocks apiece. In each one of these sections, he has called out the homes of "famous (and infamous) New Yorkers" and given readers a few paragraphs of information about each. Clearly, a lot of research went into this volume -- and, I would assume, into its East Side companion as well.

So much research, in fact, that although this book is only 250 or so pages long, I despair of being able to use it effectively -- or, I should say, extensively -- when I'm in New York a few weeks from now. On West 71st, 72nd, and 73rd streets between Columbus Ave and Central Park West, for example, Plumb identifies no fewer than 10 significant locations, ranging from the site of the house where General William T. Sherman died to the famous Dakota building where John Lennon lived and died and where, Plumb tells us, thirteen other noteworthy people also lived and where exterior shots of "Rosemary's Baby" were filmed. It's all fascinating stuff, but far from being a "walking guide," I think it would be more of a "standing-around guide" as you move slowly from street to street. I can't imagine that if you gave each site its due, absorbing the information the author gives us, you'd get very far in a day or two of touring.

Which may not be a bad thing. In her books about England, author Susan Allen Toth advocates what she calls "the thumbprint theory of travel," in which you settle yourself into a small part of a country or region -- the kind you could cover with a thumb on your map -- and then instead of traveling far afield, concentrate on that area and get to know it as a local would. That may be the way to approach this guide as well. Don't try to absorb the whole city this way, but instead pick an area that interests you and stroll it intently. "Notable New York" may be tailor-made for that.

Of course, if you already live in the city, then this and its companion would be, I would think, almost essential reference works. If, at least, you have any interest in who may have haunted those streets before you.

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Andrew S. Rogers ()
Ranked #364
Mostly, I'm a moderately prolific Amazon.com reviewer who's giving Lunch a try as another venue for my reviews.
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About this book


"A fascinating parade of people and places; an olio of architecture and anecdote...[and] a lighthearted and charming read."  —Andrew Halpern, architect and author, Historic Manhattan Apartment Houses

"The 36 tours...[take] 35 minutes to an hour—unless you become too entranced to tear yourself away."  —Travel Holiday magazine

"A mini-history...and interesting to read even if you don't set out to see the city."    —The Schenectady Sunday Gazette
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ISBN-10: 1892147114
ISBN-13: 978-1892147110
Author: Stephen W. Plumb
Publisher: Marlor Press

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"I despair"
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