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Alfred Kazin is a teacher and literary critic, author of that excellent It is called “A Walker in the City” and it is Mr. Kazin’s loving and artfully. Alfred Kazin burst onto the American literary scene in , when his first book, ” On “A Walker in the City,” his second, signaled the other direction his career. More than six decades after its initial publication, Alfred Kazin’s A Walker in the City () occupies a curious place in the canons of Jewish-American and.

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Alfred Kazin is a teacher and literary critic, author of that excellent interpretation of American writing, “On Native Kazinn. It is called “A Walker in the City” and it is Mr.

Kazin’s loving and artfully written evocation of his childhood in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn. Life in a Neighborhood Apart This is a book of memories, a beautifully written sometimes an almost too self-consciously and elaborately written exercise in recalling the past. Remembering the walks he took as a child and the walks of the pious pilgrimage to his native ground he has taken in maturity, Mr.

Kazin has sought to recapture Tge — the physical facts and the spiritual atmosphere of that community of immigrants and their children encamped at the city’s back door. There, in damp and crowded tenements, Jews from Poland and Russia lived intimately together and regarded the rest of the world, whether the Italian section a few blocks away or the far mystery of Manhattan, as “Beyond.


His father was a house painter, a Socialist and a freethinker. His mother was a truly heroic woman who toiled incredible hours at her sewing machine. There was “no middle ground between despair and the fury of our ambition.

Kazin, a damp sadness and an early hopelessness in Brownsville from which the young strove desperately to escape. The rebellious might sink into crime.

A Walker in the City by Alfred Kazin

The talented and industrious might become good Americans, professional men, “alrightnicks” who did not have to live in Brownsville. Poignant Memories of Youth But if life in Brownsville was oppressed by poverty and the pressure for success, it was enlivened by immense vitality.

Kazin has written many expert vignettes of his friends and neighbors, of “the toughest school in a tough neighborhood” which he attended, of the synagogue where the God Who was worshipped was “our oldest habit,” of the swarming life of the streets and of the family life which centered in his mother’s kitchen — where dresses were made, where friends were received and where the boy Alfred slept in a quilt on three kitchen chairs.

As a work of descriptive, emotional, lyrical writing, “A Walker in the City” is good. Kazin has recorded the sordid and unpleasant as well as the colorful and touching.

A Walker in the City

He makes ib feel the summer heat citj taste the Jewish foods and smell the odors of Brownsville in the Nineteen Twenties and the first year or two of the depression. Tbe most of his readers the world Mr. Kazin has described in “A Walker in the City” will seem as foreign and remote as if Brownsville were a district of Lodz or Cracow instead of a section of Brooklyn only a subway ride from Times Square.


But it was not so foreign that Mr. Kazin did not become absorbed as a boy in American history and literature, particularly in the nineteenth-century American past of New York City. Although “A Walker in the City” is exceedingly well written for the most part, sensitive and perceptive throughout, it is vague and elusive in its impact.

Kazin has cited numerous specific details, but he nevertheless conveys an abstract and generalized impression. There is no narrative thread to bind his memories together.

A Walker in the City

There are few anecdotes about particular events. No individuals are characterized with more than an apt ealker or an affectionate tribute. Kazin doesn’t even convey a clear idea about what kind of little boy he was himself, beyond his conscientious industry, his passion for books and his powers of observation and memory.