Pop Culture, Reading

Pete Hamill, A New York Author (1935-2020)

Hello, this is Peter, one of the adult reference librarians. The first of the great New York authors, a writer who specialized in chronicling the stories, legends, politics, growth, and history of New York City as well as the nature and character of its citizens was Washington Irving, he of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”, but also of A History of New York from the Beginning of the World to the End of the Dutch Dynasty, a satirical novel from 1809 that was attributed to the pseudonymous “Diedrich Knickerbocker”. The book covered the early years of Manhattan, when it was occupied by the Dutch and known as New Amsterdam, a period that ended 100 plus years before the book was written. Irving had a fondness for that period of his hometown’s history, and often bemoaned that so little of that period remained in terms of architecture and culture. Late in life, after a visit back to the city, he compared the sprawling metropolis of 1847 to the relative small town of his youth in a letter to his sister: “New York, as you knew it, was a mere corner of the present huge city; and that corner is all changed, pulled to pieces, burnt down and rebuilt – all but our little native nest in William Street, which still retains some of its old features, though those are daily changing”.

Similar sentiments were expressed in the writings of another great New York City-born author and journalist who called Brooklyn home for his entire life. Pete Hamill, who passed away on August 5 at age 85, was an ardent chronicler of his hometown over a decades-long career as a street-wise newspaper columnist and author of numerous books of fiction and non-fiction. At different times, Hamill wrote for the New York Daily News, the New York Post, Newsday, the Village Voice, New York magazine and Esquire. Along the way, he won a Grammy award for writing the liner notes for Bob Dylan’s album Blood on the Tracks, wrote several film screenplays, served as editor-in-chief of the New York Post and Daily News and was romantically involved with Shirley MacLaine, Jackie Onassis, Linda Ronstadt, Susan Sontag and Barbra Streisand, among others. He was also among those who subdued and wrestled the gun away from Robert Kennedy assassin Sirhan Sirhan in Los Angeles in 1968.

A quintessential New Yorker, much of Hamill’s writing about the city itself focused on the time of his youth in the post-war years through the 1950’s, tinged with the nostalgia of a “native son’s irrational love of the place”, as he wrote in Downtown: My Manhattan. He lamented the passing of places and buildings of what he called the “Lost New York” that he hoped would be remembered. Hamill’s career as a hard-boiled, intelligent reporter served as an inspiration for the generations of journalists that followed him, many of whom he personally mentored. He also chronicled his recovery from alcoholism in his memoir A Drinking Life and his friendship with Frank Sinatra in Why Sinatra Matters.

Some years ago Hamill was the keynote speaker at the annual Long Island Library Conference which I attended. I remember his talk as the highlight of the day and probably the most interesting speech I’ve ever heard at any library conference. He spoke of the importance of libraries to the culture and education of a community as well as to the nurturing of his own love for literature and journalism with the same passion, knowledge and humor displayed in his writings.

The following highlighted link will bring you to the page containing downloads of e-books and e-audio-books by Pete Hamill from the Library’s Kanopy digital service. Clicking on any title will let you immediately download the selection, which will be automatically returned after the load period ends. https://www.hoopladigital.com/search?page=1&q=pete+hamill&scope=everything&type=direct

The link below will bring you to the page containing downloads of e-books and e-audiobooks by Pete Hamill from the library’s Overdrive digital account. Clicking on any title will let you download the selection if available. Otherwise, a reserve may be placed on the title and you will be notified when it is available for download. Books are automatically returned after the load period ends. https://livebrary.overdrive.com/search?query=pete+hamill

Of course, the Library also owns many books by Pete Hamill that are available for circulation and there are many more that may be borrowed from other Suffolk County libraries.

To sign up for a Kanopy or Overdrive account through the Library, you will need to enter the email and password connected to your library card, select your home library of Lindenhurst from a drop-down list, and enter your library card barcode. Click here for your library account.  For any other issues that arise, please email the Library at info@lindenhurstlibrary.org for help.

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