At the edges of every capital-letter milieu of ’70s New York, there are fissures inhabited by characters with lives as dramatic and storied as an Andy Warhol or a Patti Smith. Enter Harriett, the pseudonymous heroine of Iris Owens’s “After Claude.” As anxious as she is adamant to be heard, to be seen and acknowledged and given a place, Harriet eventually runs out of money, patience, and unlocked apartments in the brutal late-summer heat. She ends up at the Chelsea Hotel, amid the haze of pot smoke and self-liberation pablum of wolves in sheep’s sideburns. It’s an exhausting story, like Spalding Gray off-script and reeling on Dexedrine, but you’re with Harriett all the way — even if there’s no air conditioner.
— Jaye Bartell, Word [126 Franklin St. at Milton Street in Greenpoint, (718) 383–0096, www.wordbr
In ’70s Greenwich Village, Rainey Royal is a teenager moving into adulthood alongside her best friend and her aging jazz-musician father. What author Dylan Landis does best is examine the closeness and distance we keep from other people. Or how we navigate the world around each other, what it means to be angry, and what it means to have a best friend. This book is beautifully eerie.
— Jess Pane, Greenlight Bookstore [686 Fulton St. between S. Elliott Place and S. Portland Avenue in Fort Greene, (718) 246–0200, www.greenl
Peter and Elizabeth Sehnert made the trip from Germany to America in 1850. They settled in downstate Illinois and started a farm and a family. Then history caught up with them. In “The Distancers,” Lee Sandlin turns his family’s story into the story of the American century, ranging from the Gilded Age through the Great Depression, the World Wars, and beyond. Filled with lovers and drifters, traditions and secrets, Sandlin’s memoir is a loving exploration of the American heartland, carved out of lyrical, concise, and hypnotic prose that turns this Midwestern tableaux into a kind of dream.
— Hal Hlavinka, Community Bookstore [43 Seventh Ave. between Carroll Street and Garfield Place in Park Slope, (718) 783–3075, www.commu