Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Tenement Museum Talk From 11/10/09

photo above a composite of a previous Tenement Museum talk with Kevin Baker and my insert of a pic of Edward Rutherfurd

KV Goomba and loyal Yankee fan Kevin Baker introduced author Edward Rutherfurd who gave the Tenement Museum audience a glimpse of his new novel, New York
New York's magnificent gift to the storyteller is a four-century history as exciting as that of any place on earth.It is a place echoing with stories, from old Manhattan's Indian trails and Dutch settlements to the dramatic construction of the Empire State Building and the tale of John Lennon's Dakota. During the American Revolutionary War, New York was the British Headquarters; New Yorkers organized the canals and the railroads that opened up the American West. In the Civil War, astoundingly, the city almost seceded from the Union. From the terrible Draft Riots, the Blizzard of '88, the Great Crash of ’29, to the tragedy of 9/11, New York has so often been centre stage.Larger-than-life historical characters abound in this story: Stuyvesant, the Dutchman who defended New Amsterdam, Lord Cornbury the transvestite English Governor, Washington whose presidency began in New York, Ben Franklin who tried to keep America British, Lincoln, who made one of his greatest speeches in the city, the titanic JP Morgan, Tammany Hall's Fernando Wood and Boss Tweed, legendary socialites like Mrs Astor and Mrs Vanderbilt, memorable city figures like La Guardia, Robert Moses, and Mayor Koch.But above all, for me, this novel is a tale of ordinary people - local Indians, Dutch settlers, English merchants, African slaves, German shopkeepers, Irish labourers, Jews and Italians arriving through Ellis Island, Puerto Ricans, Guatemalans, and Chinese, inkeepers and gangsters, society ladies and sweatshop workers. These scores of fictional characters were frequently suggested to me by the lives, or fragments of lives, of real people, sometimes nameless people, that I discovered in my research and who moved me. And those people were just a tiny sampling of the millions who came through New York to America, in search of freedom - and usually found it.

A second bonus of the event was meeting a current KVer, fellow Kevin Baker fan and nice guy, Jeff Spielman. Jeff is a photographer who did the cover shot of Homicide pictured above.

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