NYT Sunday Book Review Unpacks “The Catskills: Its History and How It Changed America”

  |  December 8, 2015

Fans of Catskill history got a thrill on Sunday when the NYT reviewed a new book entitled ‘The Catskills: Its History and How It Changed America” by Stephen Silverman and Raphael D. Silver. NYT reviewer Nicholas Lemann had many complimentary things to say about the book, calling it “handsomely illustrated” and “a collection of brightly written chapters about interesting people…and events.” However, attests Lemann, the book offers no revelations about the history of the Catskills: “It doesn’t have a big idea to promote, and because much of the book’s material comes from other books…and from interviews with the academics and local historians who wrote them, there is no new information here either.” The review also calls out that the Catskills biggest use of land, the Catskill Park Preserve, gets a mere four-paragraph mention at the end of the book.

The book also delves into the Borscht Belt days as well as the region’s more fascinating personalities, such as Jennie Grossinger of Grossinger’s Resort fame. Indeed, Lemann extolls the sheer number of vivid characters that have populated the Catskills, a trend that hasn’t waned in recent years. Lemman says, that people come up to the Catskills to “create low-budget ethnocultural microclimates, including, these days, several varieties of ultra-Orthodox Jews, Hutterites, Russian immigrants, converts to Buddhism and Harley-­Davidson aficionados.”

Ironically, the review mentions that “exiles from hipster Brooklyn are starting to appear,” and calls out Chronogram Magazine and Upstater “for details” on this phenomenon. Interesting that the NYT would be directing readers toward us for details, although we certainly appreciate the shout-out! After all, the Times is infamous for at different times naming Tivoli, Hudson, Kingston, and the entirety of the Hudson Valley as “the new Brooklyn.” Further, note the subtly of stopping just short of calling the Catskills “the new Brooklyn.” Very sneaky, NYT, but we’re totally on to you. Just go ahead and say it. We here at Upstater know you’re dying to.

About Kandy Harris

Kandy is a writer and musician/music teacher living in Saugerties, NY.

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