Thursday, March 3, 2011


Lost Lustre: A New York MemoirLost Lustre: A New York Memoir by Joshua Karlen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I didn't know what to expect when I received this book from Library Thing's EARLY REVIEWERS program......what I got was a small gem.

Josh Karlen grew up on Avenue C in New York City...where the tenements burned and their charred skeletons remained "standing"...where beatings by other kids were a daily part of life...where despair pretty much ruled his world. Along came the Punk Rock/Club scene of the 1970s-early 1980s, where he , at least, had an outlet for his pent-up aggression...Punk Rock in its Flower....until it morphed into the citywide gentrification that folks now call "normal"

This book is part personal history and a cultural history of a time and place(s) that no longer exist...the title chapter is the history of New York Punk writ small and personal. Heartbreaking, tragic, hubristic and gaudy....yet full of a strange kind of hope. As is the entire book. This history is written as the map of Mr Karlen's environs, as he inhabited them, then...and as he remembers them now....written without sensationalism or self-pity. From the Greek diners to the smelly Punk Clubs....the SRO hotels and St Marks place with its trash and vaudeville. Through grammar school to Music & Art (from which he flunked out) to the Amazon's all here. One man's search for his true home.

A prosaic undertaking, to be we have all made that journey. But this particular trek is set down in a literate, clear-eyed prose that made the reading a pure delight. I am grateful to have found this book, since New York City was a kind of "dream city" for me when I was growing up in Akron, Ohio...I was a little old for the Punk scene when it hit....but I certainly loved the energy and rawness of the music. This book shows some of that scene's flip side...which the music rags never did. In the end, it's a story full of hope. I recommend it to anyone who is still searching for his/her true "place of belonging".

4 stars (****)