Monday, October 21, 2019

Brooklyn: The Once and Future City (Thomas J. Campanella)

Brooklyn: The Once and Future City by Thomas J. Campanella reads like 450 pages of Brooklyn history that feels like it was co-opted from The New Yorker (it wasn’t). Campanella is a Brooklyn-born and part-time resident of the city who wrote his third book to chronicle the unique, crazy, odd, fun, and bizarre history of the city that is now “just” a borough of Gotham.

My reference to The New Yorker is more about style and substance of the book: Campanella’s work spans early Brooklyn, Revolutionary War-era Brooklyn, the transformation of the city from sleepy hamlet to a leviathan that devoured the pastoral Long Island landscape, and the schemes, dreams, and stories of fleeing from Brooklyn in the years after World War II. The stories are woven around themes in each chapter that highlight the city’s transformation, absorption into Greater New York, and its struggles in later years. 

Simply put, I thoroughly enjoyed this book as someone who has yet to set foot in Brooklyn but intends to some day. Its history is unique, like any major city, and Campanella has found a brilliant path in weaving this borough’s tale through over 300 years of stories. It’s a great read into a great city.