‘The Other Paris,’ by Luc Sante

1101-BKS-Haskell-SUB01-blog427Molly Haskell at The New York Times:

Luc Sante is no doubt a well-behaved person whose lodgings are neat as a pin, but his mind teems with filth and disorder, his nostrils alert to the dankness of slums. To this explorer of the urban under­belly, the squalid and the tawdry are manna from heaven.

Lost neighborhoods, the way the other half lived and died, buried treasure in the form of old photographs and documents, what he has called the “husks” cast off by the past, are the main attraction for this literary scavenger. The Belgian-born and vastly erudite Sante has followed his appetite for the detritus of the past in essays and translations and in books like “Low Life” (1991) and now “The Other Paris.” “I’ve always been a sucker for tales of lost civilizations, pockets in time, suppressed documents,” he once wrote.

In “Low Life” his quarry was the under­world of 19th- and early-20th-century New York, the freak shows and shooting galleries and Bowery museums, and those first flickers of cinema, the nickelodeons. Not finished with the “husks” contained in his chapters on “Gangland” and “Coppers,” this exuberant necrophiliac went on to publish “Evidence,” a macabre album containing crime scene photographs from the police archives.

more here.