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Author Robert Anasi on the rise and fall of ‘The Last Bohemia’

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The Last Bohemia
By Robert Anasi, $15
Four stars

Author Robert Anasi lived at the right place at the right time: Williamsburg, 1988. He not only witnessed the neighborhood’s artistic growth; writers like him actually spurred it. His new memoir, The Last Bohemia: Scenes From the Life of Williamsburg, Brooklyn recounts the rise and fall of the American hipster capital.

The plot is timeless (artists move into poor city; poor city becomes cool; young professionals move into now-cool city; artists move out because they can no longer afford rent), but the characters are unique. Like Tim the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus performer who “calmly inserted [a] wire into his urethra” and Henryka the landlady who “understood that a Polish junkie on a dubious visa meant less potential for legal trouble than an American kid with professional parents.”

Anasi, who often feels like the only straight white guy in the room, writes in diners and drinks in coke bars. But at the turn of the millennium his favorite joints close, and million-dollar condos open up in their place. “[T]he neighborhood had become a parody of itself,” Anasi writes, “a bohemian theme park.” So he moved. But his vivid descriptions of the once broke-ass artistic mecca will stick around a bit longer.

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