Book Review: “Letters From Brooklyn: A slightly irregular memoir of everyday life in New York City, with a tour guide thrown in” by Robert Laurence
Robert Laurence’s “Letters from Brooklyn: A slightly irregular memoir of everyday life in New York City, with a tour guide thrown in” is required reading if you’re going to the Brooklyn and New York area, required reading if you’re there — and even more required if you’ve ever wondered “why is there always all this fuss about New York?” Firstly, I have been a fan of Robert Laurence’s writing for years. I worked with him on the same newspaper but my love of his writing goes further back than that. Since childhood I’ve been been an entertainment news junkie. While going for my masters in journalism at the Medill School of Journalism my favorite course was “Arts and the Press,” but in my newspaper career I never got to use that training.
From the second I read one of Robert Laurence’s reviews (getting The San Diego Union while still working on The Wichita Eagle-Beacon in Kansas) and ever since, I’ve told people I considered him the best and most lively TV writer in the country.
Fast forward to a few years ago, when he was retired and he and his wife Susan White left San Diego after she got a job with a journalism nonprofit in Lower Manhattan. Bob would send emails to his former colleagues about what they did, where they went, where they ate and these were letters that were like little columns that made you feel the vibrancy, excitement of Brooklyn and the incredible places to go and see and things to do. He wrote some 80 of these little jewels, which morphed into a blog. I was a mere drop in the bucket of compliments from the tsunami of people who urged him to compile them in book form.
And so he did — offering detailed lively accounts of a three year stint in New York City, perfectly hyper-linked so you can look up the places and find them yourself. It’s all there: from the Empire State Building to the Ex-Lax building, from Metropolitan Museum and its blockbuster Picasso show to Greenwich Village restaurants, to the Duke Ellington statue in upper Manhattan to Teddy Roosevelt’s boyhood home. Bob wrote about New York City life, it’s problems, its very texture.
But it’s Bob’s lively style as well as the actual content that makes it “sing,” and makes you want to go there if you’re not there or haven’t been there. Or use the book if you’re there.
Today, I’m also off the paper and directly involved in an endangered form of entertainment. This October I was in Brooklyn to do a show, and guess which ebook I read over and over? I stayed at a little hotel and was again struck by how Bob totally captured the vibrancy, diversity, and excitement of the area. To Baby Boomers who were never there, Brooklyn is The Honeymooners, and while its true that Brooklyn has more stoops then at a KKK rally, it’s far more than that. “Letters from Booklyn,” makes you almost taste the New York area, and offers in detail some of the great dishes in this incredible urban buffet.
Cycling routes? It’s there. Background on areas that some New Yorkers seldom visit? It’s there. Consider it a book that’ll make you feel you know more about the area beyond longstanding media cliches or what your friends told you — and take it along as a travel book. Just stepping outside my hotel in Brooklyn I felt it: “Letters from Brooklyn” had perfectly captured on Kindle New York’s excitement and vibes. After my current one year special national tour of schools is over, I intend to spend a few days in Brooklyn. And guess which book will be with me?
FIVE TMV STARS ON A SCALE OF FIVE