The Washington Square Ensemble - Madison Smartt Bell

The Washington Square Ensemble

By Madison Smartt Bell

  • Release Date: 2011-12-06
  • Genre: Literary
The Washington Square Ensemble book review score

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The Washington Square Ensemble Madison Smartt Bell Book Review Score: ★★★★★ 5/5 stars

Seven men tell their stories of survival on the streets of 1980s New York City in this gritty debut novel by the National Book Award–finalist.
 
Like most New Yorkers, Johnny B. Goode hustles to make a living. His beat happens to be pharmaceutical distribution. His place of business, Washington Square Park. Over the course of one weekend, he and his crew of “retailers” sell their product to students, businessmen, tourists, drifters, and lowlifes, while evading the law and outmaneuvering the competition. It’s a fragile balance that avant-garde saxophonist and all-around nuisance Porco Miserio threatens to upend with his big mouth.
 
As Johnny B. and his crew scramble to maintain their embattled existence, each relates their personal story of life on the fringes of Greenwich Village. Among them are Yusuf Ali, the NBA-sized Muslim whose profession is at odds with his faith; Holy Mother, Johnny B.’s boyhood friend and former Mafia hitman; and Santa Barbara, the Puerto Rican Santeria practitioner who has been deeply spooked. Authentic and original, the chorus of voices captures the streets of New York in all its widescreen splendor and punishing blight.
 
An “atmospherically electric . . . Winning debut,” The Washington Square Ensemble introduced a prodigiously gifted new novelist to American readers (Kirkus Reviews).
 
“The most exotic bunch of sweet characters since some of Jack Kerouac’s ‘holy angels’ first came alive in print.” —Los AngelesHerald Examiner

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