First New York Reading – The Last Bohemia: Scenes from the Life of Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Remember when Williamsburg was “undiscovered,” hipster-free, and gritty? Do you remember Kokies? Robert Anasi does and vividly chronicles turn-of-the-century Williamsburg in his new book The Last Bohemia with a wit and charm that never descends into mere nostalgia. Documenting Williamsburg’s arresting transformation from grit to glitz, Anasi’s book is a vivacious celebration of New York’s most adored — and despised – neighborhood.

You can see him tonight in that other last bohemia, Greenpoint, as he does his first New York reading at The Word. More information here.

From the New York Times

In 1992, New York magazine anointed Williamsburg, Brooklyn, as “the New Bohemia.” Two decades later, Robert Anasi delivers a bittersweet verdict on the neighborhood’s stunning ascent. Williamsburg may not quite be “The Last Bohemia” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $15) as he proclaims (there’s still room for Bushwick and even the South Bronx). But he vividly realizes his subtitle: “Scenes From the Life of Williamsburg, Brooklyn.”

Mr. Anasi lived in Williamsburg for 14 years, through the thick of its revival. He fetchingly explores the fluorescence of his old neighborhood as well as the gentrification and commodification of a place that, however briefly, belonged to artists. But, when he decamped at age 40 for California, where he writes and teaches journalism, the decision was an easy one. “I didn’t feel guilty about leaving Williamsburg,” he writes. “Williamsburg had already left me.”

Buy the book here and check out this great review in the Los Angeles Review of Books.


  1. Cities change and evolve. So tired of nostalgia. Too much “This area was much better when it sucked.” Yeah, that makes sense.

  2. JonJonSquared says:

    ^^Agreed. I moved here from the city in 1998, and yes it’s blown up beyond imagination in certain parts, but it’s still a blast and filled with creative energy all pushed up against the East River. It’s basically one big varied hood all the way to Bushwick. Don’t believe me? Go to a Japanther show.

  3. manhattan WAS better before rudy and williamsburg WAS better before the aughts. it didn’t suck then. it sucks now. does that make sense?

  4. The literature is misleading Williamsburg is a pretty large neighborhood, which belonged too many people, the Italians had the north side and east williamsburg, the Jews mostly south williamsburg and the hispanics had the south side.

    The mostly hispanic and black neighbors, were areas of williamsburg that bore the brunt of the crack epidemic of the 70’and 80’s. These areas in williamsburg were the most dangerous.

    The Jewish south and Italian East, were very organized, clean, and incredibly less self destructive than there counter parts in the south side.

    So it’s it’s incredibly misleading to hear that Wiliamsburg was a “bad” neighborhood..It only depends which neighborhood in williamsburg you were at at that time! I was born and raised and still live in east Wiliamsburg, and the Italians just like the Jews stuck together. And we all staunchly resisted the rot that afflicted the other parts of the neighborhoods!

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