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A cacophonous poem of democracy and greed, like the streets of New York themselves.
—John Vernon, Los Angeles Times

This highly original work reads like the reminiscences of a raconteur who knew everyone, was there in the midst of it all himself, and, even when telling stories of the deadliest dives on the Bowery, makes you wish you had been there too.
—Michelle E. Hammer, Newsday

It is to New York what Dickens, all of Dickens, is to London: a bringing to life of the city itself, a portrait of all its foibles, follies, and fervors, peopled with flesh-and-blood caricatures who are our hidden ancestors, our cultural reference points, and our political and social predecessors…. What this book teaches us is that the past is both gone forever and very much still with us.
—Wendy Lesser, East Bay Express

It proceeds by the accumulation of anecdote and telling detail, rendered in prose that delights the reader with constant felicities. The narrative is replete not only with wit but with feeling…. No brief summary can do justice to the scope and richness of Sante’s chronicle.
—Jim Holt, Philadelphia Enquirer

One may quarrel with the implicit argument of Low Life, about what both New York and low life represent, but as literature it is a tour-de-force. Sante has developed a particular, lacquered prose style…aphoristic and matter-of-fact, that serves his purposes magnificently…. Low Life long remains in the imagination.
—David Rieff, Times Literary Supplement


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It was as if Sante had opened a series of dark hallway doors and been confronted, suddenly, by so many terrible rooms. The book pushes us to look at life in a distinctly different and uncompromisingly individual way. That may make an audience uncomfortable, but it is a function of real art.
The Washington Post

Even as they present “a true record of the texture and grain” of New York, the photographs and Sante’s essays celebrate its intangibility…. Sante is up to something closer to poetry than history. Thanks to his empathic, luminous prose, these images offer us the shock of self-recognition.
The Boston Phoenix

Sante has a talent for the striking, impressionistic insight and the ability to write transcendental prose. This is a book about the mysteries of life and death.
New York Times Book Review


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A forensics of remembrance, an investigation of selfhood as it is articulated in and by history… Sante’s sly, elegant autobiography will satisfy a craving other memoirs do not.
—W. S. Di Piero, New York Times Book Review

Sante is such an elegant writer, with such generous powers of empathy, intelligence and imagination, that the personal subject matter becomes universal.
—Jennifer Starrels, The Nation

This habit of taking history personally…enables Sante to re-create hours, days, and entire eras in photographic detail.
The New Yorker

The chemistry of Sante’s development is analyzed in a narrative that is ironic and tender, humorous and heartbreaking, lucid and subtle–and utterly free from pose and from sentimentality.
Simon Leys, The New York Review of Books


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Sante writes what is often called “immaculate prose.” Actually his sentences are maculate in exactly the right ways, lithe and tight but stained with musk and breath…. Sante’s deep preoccupation is an outlaw history of Modernism in which avant-gardists and roustabouts sync up. With each new old thing his eye and phrasing fall on, Sante picks up a mystery to unfold, smooth out and trickily refold. He claims it, and hands it on.
—Frances Richard, The Nation

At once tough in his thinking, empathic in his analysis, and liberated in his expression, Sante selects barbed details, tunes in to danger and suspense, and dispenses wry humor and sure insight.

The salvaging of the discarded is a fundamental act in all of Sante’s writing, and it is anything but casual…. The whole drama of present life fighting its way through a labyrinth of inherited artifacts is played out. We are made to look at what was always there and almost always unnoticed.
—Geoffrey O’Brien, The New York Review of Books


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Sante’s introduction to this book is, like just about everything he writes, sublime. Folk Photography is among those rare photo books that stares at you as hard as you’ll want to stare at it.
—Dwight Garner, The New York Times

The images are surprising, brusque, mesmeric, chilled with a sense of mortality that was common to even professional photography of the period. Sante arranges them with a planned kind of randomness…letting the parade of sepia imagery flow from one to the next with an intuitive gleam.
—Chris Barsanti, PopMatters

Sante, in a characteristically oracular introductory essay, emphasizes our distance in time from these photographic acts…[but] more important than these glimpses of a lost time is the way that the postcards–plainspoken, omnivorous, and experimental by necessity–refresh our exhausted ways of seeing.
—Jonathan Taylor, Bookforum


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Layered, ironic, amused, Fénéon’s voice is unmistakable…a little yo-yo of a narrative that gives pleasure no matter how many times it’s flung.
—Marilyn Johnson, New York Times Book Review

[Fénéon] knew how to shape a sentence, how to make three lines breathe, delay a key piece of information, introduce a quirky adjective, hold the necessary verb until last. Just fitting in the requisite facts is a professional skill; giving the whole item form, elegance, wit and surprise is an art…. [Sante] has well conveyed the taut, sprung wryness of the original French.
—Julian Barnes, London Review of Books