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Before & After: Stories From New York

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Before & After: Stories From New York

Current Status:
In Season
Various Artists
Nonfiction, Essays

We gave it a C

In his introduction, Beller explains that the original version of this collection of essays — a ”greatest hits” from his hipster-lit website — was ”almost finished on September 10.” After Sept. 11, he chose to rework it so that half of the book is devoted to sketches of life in ”normal” New York and half to the sort of first-person reports that erupted in magazines in the weeks following the attacks. The same introduction makes it clear that the editor doesn’t know the difference between the words weather and whether, which is to say that this is a mixed grab bag. Aces such as Luc Sante (writing on the 1988 riot in Tompkins Square Park) and Phillip Lopate (doing a sharp appreciation of the Twin Towers) deliver the goods; a score of lesser lights wallow in self-absorption and make evil look quite banal indeed. C