New York Nocturne: The City after Dark in Literature, Painting, and Photography, 1850-1950

The blackout of 2003 offered New Yorkers their most recent opportunity to experience something exceedingly rare: the city enveloped in darkness. William Chapman Sharpe begins New York Nocturne at a time when nighttime darkness was the norm and light -- first in the form of gas, then of electricity -- was radically disorienting, eventually transforming patterns of commerce and leisure. In this gorgeous, erudite book, the Barnard College professor examines the myriad ways that writers, painters, and photographers have represented New York nightlife, beginning in the mid-19th century, when works by Herman Melville, Walt Whitman, and Edgar Allan Poe dramatized the moral perils of the artificially lit city. Sharpe's journey takes him to the middle of the 20th century, by which time artists like Edward Hopper and Weegee exploit the nighttime's theatrical, voyeuristic potential. In between he covers James McNeill Whistler, Stephen Crane, John Sloan, Alfred Stieglitz, Georgia O'Keeffe, Joseph Stella, and many others, with close readings of the literature and black-and-white and color reproductions of the art. Sharpe, whose own affection for the city is charmingly apparent here, insists throughout that artists and writers haven't simply reacted to the changes in urban existence; rather, they have "helped turn the unscouted terrain of the urban night into a legible part of contemporary life."

April 24: "[The HST] lifted a curtain from our view of the universe, changing it so profoundly that no human can look at the stars in the same way..."

Kenneth Calhoun (Black Moon) and Lysley Tenorio (Monstress) of the Discover Great New Writers program on B-movies, heritage, and finales.

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
In the Light of What We Know

Zia Haider Rahman's mystery of a brilliant Bangladeshi mathematician's past barrels through the Ivy League, London high finance, and spy-haunted Afghanistan in a page-turning tale of exile, intrigue and the price of friendship. A Discover Great New Writers selection.

The People's Platform

Once touted as the foundation for tomorrow's digital democracy, the Internet is increasingly ruled by a few corporate giants, while millions of contributors till its fields for free. Astra Taylor looks at why the web has failed to deliver a communitarian cyberscape, and offers a compelling case for restoring its original vision.

A Private Venus

Dubbed "the Italian Simenon," Giorgio Scerbanenco (1911-1969) began his crime-writing career with books set in the USA, but quickly shifted scene closer to home, the city of Milan.  In this adventure, appearing in English for the first time, his underdog hero Dr. Duca Lamberti finds himself in the middle of a seedy, scantily clad criminal racket, where the presence of an outsider could result in death.