23527863Published: December 16, 2014
Publisher: Columbia University Press
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

Featuring a stunning gallery of portraits by the world’s finest poets, essayists, and fiction writers — including Walt Whitman, Stephen Crane, José Martí, Maxim Gorky, Federico García Lorca, Isaac Bashevis Singer, E. E. Cummings, Djuna Barnes, Colson Whitehead, Robert Olen Butler, and Katie Roiphe — this anthology is the first to focus on the unique history and transporting experience of a beloved fixture of the New York City landscape.

Moody, mystical, and enchanting, Coney Island has thrilled newcomers and soothed native New Yorkers for decades. With its fantasy entertainments, renowned beach foods, world-class boardwalk, and expansive beach, it provides a welcome respite from the city’s dense neighborhoods, unrelenting traffic, and somber grid. Coney Island has long offered a kaleidoscopic panorama of people, places, and events, creating, as Lawrence Ferlinghetti once wrote, “a Coney Island of the mind.” This anthology captures the highs and lows of that sensation, with works that imagine Coney Island as a restful resort, a playground for the masses, and a symbol of America’s democratic spirit, as well as a Sodom by the sea, a garish display of capitalist excess, and a paradigm of urban decay. As complex as the city of which it is a part, Coney Island engenders limitless perspectives, a composite inspiring everyone who encounters it to sing its electric song.  (

Oh what fun this book was!  I’m a lover of Coney Island anyway, which was what attracted me to this book in the first place, but to have this compilation of different points of view of such a magnificent place it was just fantastic to read.

I liked how it started off giving some general background about Coney Island, from its first settlers and traveling straight through today, showcasing its rise and subsequent decline with little hiccups of interest pops throughout the 20th century.  I just love reading about Coney during its heyday so that’s probably my favorite Coney cluster I like to read about but seeing it through the eyes of history, by people who lived it at different times in its life, was just fascinating.

From a snippet of The Warriors to early twentieth century newspaper articles to the latest intention to revitalize the area as drafted by the people who are currently in control of it, and the subsequent backlash from that.  It gives Coney Island a very well-rounded, dynamic life that people are incredibly passionate about.  Anyone with a modicum of interest in history and the preservation of our nation’s landmarks can appreciate all that Coney’s gone through and will love this anthology of work that’s been compiled.

I only have a digital copy but I absolutely plan on buying a hardbound edition so I can enjoy it all over again.  Looking at the archival photos littered throughout the book on a little iPhone just doesn’t do them justice.  I want to soak in the details and really absorb whatever part of Coney the images are trying to portray.

The Parascandolas did an amazing job of putting this book together and I think it’s a really unique look at the span of Coney Island.  It’s not just about their interpretation of what the area is.  They let other people do the speaking, and not just in annotations and footnotes.  It lent itself to variety and diversity and gives you an amalgam of history from a myriad of eyes, not just a couple of sets.

For anyone interested in Coney Island history, or amusement history, or New York history, A CONEY ISLAND READER is a must read.


I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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