Summary

And as the book ends with a series of burning sunsets, some peeking through the narrow buildings and others reflected on windows, you’re alongside the crowd at a stand-still, absorbing what you’ve just seen but also understanding that, like all great cities, the cyclical contrasts will continue to exist, even after you close the book.

4-STAR REVIEW: NEW YORK: GIVE ME YOUR BEST OR YOUR WORST by Elizabeth Crowens

The Description

Publication Date: October 25, 2021

An Anthology and Celebration of the Big Apple

I’m an unabashed, unapologetic lover of New York City, my hometown, and New York: Give Me Your Best or Your Worst is right up my dark, deserted alley. New York’s at its best when you sneak up on it, glance at its sideways, or let it glance sideways at you. The pros and photos in this collection all show New York’s best, even when they purport to be showing its worst; in NYC, that’s how we roll. A fine addition to your New York bookshelf, a collection to savor.
~ SJ Rozen, best-selling author of The Art of Violence

Writer and photographer, Elizabeth Crowens is one of 500 New York City-based artists to receive funding through the City Artist Corps Grants program, presented by The New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA), with support from the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment (MOME) as well as Queens Theatre.

She was recognized for New York: Give Me Your Best or Your Worst, her photo-illustrated anthology, which brought her published book along with ten other authors to Mysterious Bookshop in Lower Manhattan at 58 Warren Street on Monday, October 25, 2021 for an in-store event and author signing along with a simultaneous Facebook Live presentation and recording for Jim Freund’s WBAI program Hour of the Wolf.

Excerpt

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The Review

Originally conceived from a series of Facebook posts called “Caption Contest: Give Me Your Best and Worst,” novelist and photographer Elizabeth Crowens has curated a series of provocative, entertaining, and moving vignettes of New York City, flashes of lofty dreams and the nightmares of reality, nostalgic windows into the past and jolting visions of the future, as well as light and amusing escapes into the imaginations of the authors and photographers who call the city home.

The stories and poems are interspersed between photographs of the city and its inhabitants, and the stories and voices are diverse, engaging, and sometimes a little chaotic, just like the city itself. Reed Farrel Coleman’s sonnet, “City Once Known,” is shrouded in shadows of his memories and longing, which bounces as rhythmically as the waves crashing under the boardwalk. Richie Narvaez’s touching reflections on opportunity and innocence contrasts with the reality of police and domestic violence, celebrating resilience that regretabily exists with these polarities. Charles Salzberg’s comically tragic experience in being pushed out of his Manhattan apartment by developers balances perfectly between the personal and the global shifts in real estate. And in a similar vein, Steven Van Patten’s over-the-top comedic-horror story doesn’t allow you to simply laugh off the real challenges of gentrification and microaggressions that continue at the workplace.

And while there are a fair share of stories of sci-fi and fantasy—fighting skeletons, alien visitors, and Machiavelian dogs—the authors never shy away from deeper human concerns. For instance, in Barbara Krasnoff’s “The Fishmonger,” we follow Sam, the fish vendor who speaks to his fish rather than to his customers. As soon as his customers—some disgruntled and others deeply worried for his health—leave the store, the fish come to life and join in with the conversation. Though it’s not clear if this is real or imagined by Sam, the conversation totters between levity and seriousness, as the salmon recounts his experience of living it up in the ocean, eating well and fighting the urge to go back to freshwater to mate, only to be caught and brought to Sam’s store. Krasnoff seems to be having us reflect on the nets that exist, regardless of the choices we make, that can weigh us down or provide opportunity, as Sam decides to go to the party he was invited to by one of his customers.

The photographs themselves, some thematically connected to the stories and some not, capture the intimacy between friends and lovers, the strangeness of tabloids and billboards, the blurriness of time and the stillness of memories. In Reed Farrell’s forward, he mentions that New York City “is fated to be a place of stark contradictions: of churning and yearning, of inclusion and exclusion, of acceptance and denial,” and the photographs encapsulate this contrast stunningly. The cityscapes emphasise the glitzy reflections off the buildings and the twinkling lights at night, while also including drab, cracked concrete and overflowing garbage cans. The portraits highlight the joy and excitement of children playing, alongside apprehensive glances and weary faces. And most moving for me was the interplay between the natural and the artificial, showing the resilience of flowers and trees among the artificial, but also the coexistence of humanity within these spaces, like people sitting on a park bench in the snow.

Though some photographs do seem taken directly from a Facebook page, yielding not as much artistic depth as the others, Crowens may be arguing that the quick snapshots of ComicCon or random signs and antique store artifacts hold similar value—the desultory and the amateurish should exist alongside the well-crafted and poignant.

And as the book ends with a series of burning sunsets, some peeking through the narrow buildings and others reflected on windows, you’re alongside the crowd at a stand-still, absorbing what you’ve just seen but also understanding that, like all great cities, the cyclical contrasts will continue to exist, even after you close the book.Buy Links

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REVIEW AUTHOR

Sean Linton
Sean Linton
Sean Linton teaches high school English in London, while also providing developmental and copy editing for independent authors. An avid reader and writer, Sean graduated from Idaho State University with a master’s degree in English, specializing in post-war literature.

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4-STAR REVIEW: NEW YORK: GIVE ME YOUR BEST OR YOUR WORST by Elizabeth CrowensAnd as the book ends with a series of burning sunsets, some peeking through the narrow buildings and others reflected on windows, you’re alongside the crowd at a stand-still, absorbing what you’ve just seen but also understanding that, like all great cities, the cyclical contrasts will continue to exist, even after you close the book.