A Walker in the City by Alfred Kazin

A Walker in the City

Kazin’s memorable description of his life as a young man as he makes the journey from Brooklyn to “americanca”-the larger world that begins at the other end of the subway in Manhattan. A classic portrayal of the Jewish immigrant culture of the 1930s. Drawings by Marvin Bileck.

Details A Walker in the City

TitleA Walker in the City
Release DateMar 19th, 1969
PublisherMariner Books
GenreAutobiography, Memoir, Nonfiction, New York, History, Literature, Jewish

Reviews A Walker in the City

  • James Murphy
    My reading and enjoyment of Teju Cole's novel Open City last spring inspired me to reread A Walker in the City because I thought I saw similarities in the two. Cole's meditative story about an immigrant doctor in residence wandering New York City reflecting on what he sees and the rich brew of thoughts it all brings to mind reminded me of Kazin's memoir because that's how I remembered it. I was surprised to discover it's not quite that way. As a ...
  • Bryan
    I've never been much of a fan of memoirs, something about them has never resonated with me. It doesn't help that the genre seems to be jam-packed with so much celebrity dross, political maneuvering and self-help sob-stories nowadays--that's not to say that there can't be something genuine lurking in that morass, but I'm not going to spend much time looking through the haystack for the needle. Conversely, just because it was published before memoi...
  • Lorri
    I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The imagery was masterful and illuminating, making me feel as if I was there, with the author, walking the streets, remembering, contemplating and ruminating.
  • Graychin
    The word was my agony. The word that for others was so effortless and so neutral, so unburdened, so simple, so exact, I had first to meditate in advance, to see if I could make it, like a plumber fitting together odd lengths and shapes of pipe.Like Moses, Alfred Kazin had a stutter. He found his Aaron in pen and paper, as this gorgeous memoir proves. Each of the book’s four sections traces a walking route through the immigrant Brooklyn neighbor...
  • Matt
    Kazin writes about growing up in a Jewish community in Brooklyn before the depression. As a New Yorker, and a lover of New York history, this stood out to me, but I think it really has universal appeal. Kazin is a fascinating man, and his struggles with issues like community and self-identity are easily identifiable.
  • Chloe
    3.5 starsA really beautiful memoir about growing up in the Jewish neighborhood of Brownsville ("Brunsvil") in the 1920s and 30s. I felt almost transported in time - Kazin has a way of really thoroughly describing the feel of a place, so that you're almost there with him in the summer nights, going to synagogue, walking through the Italian neighborhood, in the kitchen while women make dresses. It's a lovely little time capsule and glimpse into (fo...
  • Gregg
    I read this about a decade ago, and forgot all about it until today. A wonderful look at life in "The City" from days gone by.When I lived in Brooklyn, I used to go to a Chinese restaurant near my apartment. I stopped by one afternoon to pick up dinner, and saw the owners all dressed up-a well preserved 20 year old suit, camera, fedora, etc. for the man. His wife was wearing a flower print dress, and had her hair all done up. They told me it was ...
  • Laura Tanenbaum
    Every New Yorker has her own map of things as they were, things as they have become. In his memoir, the critic Alfred Kazin gives us is - the insular Bronzeville, Brooklyn neighborhood of the twenties and thirties, when Jewish immigrants discussed socialism and longed to join the "all right-niks" on Eastern Parkway. It's common to praise memoirs for being "without nostalgia or sentimentality" - but such a thing is rarely possible. This book is ba...
  • Terri
    Allowed me to live another person's discovery of life and words through walking the streets of East Brooklyn and beyond. I had only vaguely heard of Alfred Kazin, and the library copy is old and damaged ... I am thankful for the serendipity that brought me to this book!
  • Henry
    Incredibly lyrical book detailing childhood in 1920s Brooklyn. A New York must!
  • Thomas Breen
    Kazin’s prose is truly transporting, lifting the reader from wherever he may be and placing him right in the middle of Pitkin Avenue, 1930, breathing in the sights and smells and sounds of the transplanted Jewish shtetl that is Depression-era Brownsville. Kazin is a ravenous reader and a lonely young man, hungry for ideas and fantasies and art and grandeur that exists beyond the bounds of his close, poor, assured Jewish world. He reads at every...
  • Wendy
    The New York of Kazin's youth, in the decade before the Depression, comes alive on the pages of this memoir as he revisits humble scenes in Brownsville and beyond, lingering along the way over sensory detail. One example from near the end, during the very hot summer of his sixteenth year: "Ripeness filled our kitchen even at supper time. The room was so wild with light, it made me tremble; I could not believe my eyes. In the sink a great sandy pi...
  • Rick
    These memory pieces by the famous, post WWII literary critic, all begin or end in Brownsville, the neighborhood in Brooklyn that was Kazin’s childhood home. Mostly they’re perfect. Only the longest one, “The Block and Beyond,” suffers from trying too hard to be lyrical. Otherwise, they are wonderfully observant recollections of time, place, and culture that bring to life parts of New York City from the 1920s and 30s in vivid description a...
  • Bob
    An amazing memoir of Kazin's passage from a young Jewish boy growing up in Brownstone, Brooklyn in the 1920s, discovering the greater world around him through books, poetry, and wandering the streets of New York. Kazin doesn't just "tell" the story - he lives it on each page, drawing the reader into his shoes and his head as he finds his place in the world, and then as he returns to that scene some 20 years later and walks the streets and subways...
  • Megan Geissler
    Identity, urban development, memory, bygone eras, etc. Quite a splendid ode to author's Brooklyn childhood and cool glimpse of race relations and immigration back in the early- to mid-2oth century. I was compelled to keep learning about the evolution of Brownsville from an end-of-the-line Jewish settlement to disrepair and predominantly black housing developments - literally the periphery of society for generations of poor folk. The scenes were v...
  • Karima
    A WALKER IN THE CITY, is a kind of sensory tour Kazin's childhood in Brownsville, NYC. It begins, "Every time I go back to Brownsville it is as if I had never been away. From the moment I step off the train at Rockaway Avenue and smell the leak out of the men's room, then the pickles from the stand just below the subway steps, an instant rage comes over me, mixed with dread and some unexpected tenderness... As I walk those familiarly choked stree...
  • Liam
    "[I]t puzzled me that no one around me seemed to take God very seriously. We neither believed nor disbelieved. He was our oldest habit." (46)"Life was a battle to 'make sure'; it had no place, as we had no time, for whims." (57)"There seemed to be no middle ground between despair and the fury of our ambition." (70)"In Yiddish we broke all the windows to let a little air into the house." (119)"This [summer] light will not go out until I have lodge...
  • David
    This book was an extraordinary read. The author reminisces over his childhood growing up in a poor Jewish community on the outskirts of New York: he then goes much deeper touching questions that we ask ourselves (or have ever asked ourselves) as teenagers/young adults grasping to understand our various identities and their place in this industrialized enigma. It is about finding your place in the world and making peace with the one that has passe...
  • Lisa
    This is a beautifully detailed description of the ambiance of walking through 1930's Brooklyn. The author returned home and describes his walks to the synagogue, his home, the shops and people of the neighborhood, and the leisure activities of the neighborhood. There isn't any character development or plot, just place and time. It is beautifully nostalgic. I recognize similarities between his 1930's Brooklyn Jewish experience to my 1960's queens ...
  • Anita
    Took me back, although not as far back as the author, to the neighborhoods that I passed through on the LL train. That's right it was the LL and the last stop was Canarsie. It may be hard to understand, especially for "newbies" in Brooklyn, but Brooklyn was a city. And to this day, thre are people who have never left their neighborhoods. Kazin talks about gettting off the block and and what it was like to go to Manhattan, crossing the bridge. Gre...
  • Dan Lalande
    Journalist/critic Alfred Kazin's sensorial re-immersion into the Brownsville (Brooklyn) of his youth, a Whitmanesque inventory of the sights, sounds and smells of the Eastern European immigrant universe of the 1920's. The prose is high-minded but the perspective is sour; Kazin escaped, through literature, not with survivor's laughter but with tears that never dried.
  • Rachel S
    if you love nyc, hate nyc but cant seem to shake nyc, kazin's racing heart and vision as he walks and walks from boro to boro, brings memories, even if you've not walked the same road as he did. kazin is a must read for writers, he writes as a writer, not as someone wanting to be a writer-there's no on/off switch. you absorb life from reading his work.
  • Helen
    Kazin has some lovely, lyrical descriptions, but his fixation on geographical place falls flat for me. It is only when he speaks of the emotions places evoke and the characters that the author has encountered that his prose starts to soar.
  • Florence
    The author's coming of age story from Brownsville in Brooklyn to the outside world in a poetic odyssy. I could feel the summer heat on the pavements. I could smell the food cooking in his tenement apartment.
  • Henry Sturcke
    Hailed by people whose opinion I respect as one of the greatest of all memoirs; I'm not in a position to judge, since I probably haven't read as many as those who confidently make such pronouncements. But I'm glad they pointed me toward this; it is very, very good.
  • Cort Gross
    right there with Luis Mumford on walking the City---told here from a Jewish kid in NYC's prespective. this is one of those books like Didion's "Slouching..."---which I return to annually to remember what a good essay is---this one I dip into frequently to see how to write about cities.
  • Doug Arbesfeld
    I'm still reading this and loving it.A very moving depiction the life of first generation and immigrant Jews in Brooklyn in the 1920s and 30s. I can smell the pickles and herring being sold from pushcarts on Blake ave.
  • Christinep
    I loved this book, but perhaps if you had never lived here in New York it wouldn’t have quite the same effect. But no matter what, his writing is so descriptive and evocative of growing up as a first generation American, that I would recommend it to anyone.