Teresa Carpenter Discusses “New York Diaries” at Tenement Talks

Posted on: January 27th, 2012 at 10:33 am by

New York Diaries is presently at the top of our reading list, so it was a great pleasure to attend last night’s Tenement Talks with author-editor Teresa Carpenter.  The book is not only a national best-seller and notched in Amazon’s top 100, it’s also a big buy at the museum gift shop.

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“Big City” columnist at the New York Times, Ginia Bellafante, introduced Carpenter.  Once at the helm, we learned of the painstaking processes in compiling the diaries for inclusion.  It meant digging through analog and digital archives, dealing with estates, and learning the ins and outs of copyright law.  She read numerous entries from her tome, some of which even related to current events (e.g. Wall Street greed).

Carpenter reminisced about how the idea for the compilation was on the back-burner pretty much until 9/11.  After that day, the “fragility of human memory” was inspiration enough to return her attention to the task.  What began as a project to track the “footprints on New York City” within a three-year goal period ultimately morphed into a seven-year expedition.

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Most interesting was hearing about the cycles of diary writing and how little has changed in the last few centuries. Themes become prevalent.  For instance, during the spring season, writers tend to be at their most innovative, seeking to create new ideas; mid-summer seems to harbor a sense of menace and/or war. Lastly, each generation proclaims a certain event as “the worst catastrophe to befall New York.” Yet we always rebound…

Ultimately, Carpenter intended New York Diaries as a fun and enjoyable read, and not necessarily something overly “academic.” Let us know what you thought of the book!

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