NEW YORK, CAPITAL OF THE 20TH CENTURY is for everyone who walks across the Brooklyn Bridge and imagines the view in 1924, or stands on a corner and admires Manhattan's grid system, or wonders how many roaches roam the city streets, or wants to know what Marcel Duchamp was thinking as he stepped into his apartment at 217 W 14th St. This book is the ultimate guide to the nooks and crannies of the greatest city on earth, full of surprises, philosophical insight, existential angst, and joyful connections.
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Here is a kaleidoscopic assemblage and poetic history of New York: an unparalleled and original homage to the city, composed entirely of quotations. Drawn from a huge array of sources—histories, memoirs, newspaper articles, novels, government documents, emails—and organized into interpretive categories that reveal the philosophical architecture of the city, Capital is the ne plus ultra of books on the ultimate megalopolis.
It is also a book of experimental literature that transposes Walter Benjamin’s unfinished magnum opus of literary montage on the modern city, The Arcades Project, from 19th-century Paris to 20th-century New York, bringing the streets to life in categories such as “Sex,” “Commodity,” “Downtown,” “Subway,” and “Mapplethorpe.”
Capital is a book designed to fascinate and to fail—for can a megalopolis truly be written? Can a history, no matter how extensive, ever be comprehensive? Each reading of this book, and of New York, is a unique and impossible passage.
Kenneth Goldsmith is the founding editor of UbuWeb, teaches Poetics and Poetic Practice at the University of Pennsylvania and is Senior Editor of PennSound. He was an artist and sculptor for many years before taking up conceptual poetry. He has since published ten books of poetry and is the author of a book of essays, Uncreative Writing: Managing Language in a Digital Age. He was the first Poet Laureate of the Museum of Modern Art. He resides in New York City with his wife, artist Cheryl Donegan and his two sons.
“Goldsmith's material, unmistakably real, refuses to remain in a literary frame.” – Bookslut
“[Goldsmith] gives you the feel of what it is like to be living in New York now.” – New Yorker
“A skyscraper of words—literary, journalistic, poetic, and prosaic—to celebrate and chronicle teeming Gotham. The title alludes to Walter Benjamin, and the conceit is one to do him proud … there is an embarrassment of riches here.” – Kirkus Reviews
"Reading Capital feels like walking the city, through time and space, jumping neighborhoods, going in and out of buildings, slipping through wormholes...eavesdropping on the muttering, shouting
narrative of the twentieth-century city.” – Jeremiah Moss, Vanishing New York