Ada Calhoun

St. Marks Is Dead


New York Times Editors’ Pick and Amazon Book of the Month, St. Marks Is Dead (W.W. Norton, 2015) is a vibrant 400-year history of the hippest street in America written by a journalist who grew up there. Named one of the best books of the year by Kirkus, the Boston GlobeOrlando Weekly, the New York Post, and the Village Voice. Available in hardcover at bookstores everywhere, and online via AmazonBarnes & Noble, or iBookstore. Paperback edition coming November 2016.

“The Best Nonfiction Book About New York, 2015” — Village Voice, which in a 2015 cover profile by Jay Ruttenberg said, “With St. Marks Is Dead, Ada Calhoun just became the most important new voice on old New York.”

“Timely, provocative, and stylishly written …Calhoun’s book serves as a welcome corrective to that rallying cry [that gentrification is bad], and to the tendency to romanticize New York City in the 1970s, when the city was far more riotous and permissive than it is now. … Her aplomb, in fact, is precisely what the discussion needs. Her portrait of neighborhood resilience might suggest more temperate proposals for an increasingly polarized debate.” — John McMillian, The Atlantic

“Calhoun, who grew up on St. Mark’s Place, is careful not to romanticize any one era of the East Village (which serves as a suitable proxy for much of New York City during the past century). St. Marks Is Dead is an ecstatic roll call.” — Sasha Frere-Jones, The New York Times Book Review 

“Sophisticated…A delightful book.” — Joel Millman, Wall Street Journal

An Amazon Best Book of November 2015: “In this—sometimes history book, sometimes tour guide—Ada Calhoun crafts an account of New York’s St. Marks Place in the most wonderful way—through the stories of the people who lived there. Journalist and local native, Calhoun knits together stories, essays, photos, and personal accounts to document a 400 year history of what is considered one of the most culturally significant streets in the United States. Whether you are a native of New York or a dreamer, this book will have you yearning for the streets of the city and the unique spirit of St. Marks.” — Penny Mann,

“[Highbrow/Brilliant] Ada Calhoun’s canny history of the storied, grubby street and, secondarily, our deathless cycle of I-was-there nostalgia.” — New York magazine, which also calls it one of “The 7 Books You Need to Read in November.”

“Born and raised on St. Marks Place herself, Calhoun creates a nuanced, captivating, and thoroughly fun ride through St. Marks’s lineage, celebrating the radical and downright weird nature that has drawn people to it for generations. Combining extensive historical research and around 250 interviews with former and current residents, Calhoun’s book shows St. Marks as a site for the young and the restless to seek out their own creative potential.”St. Marks Isn’t Over; It’s Over for You,” L.A. Review of Books

“[Starred Review] Calhoun writes with zest, fluidity, and insight, combining facts and memories in a kaleidoscopic saga of an electric, ever-morphing place of squalor, violence, progressivism, camaraderie, fiery dissent, and intense creativity.” — Donna Seaman, Booklist

“Calhoun, a journalist who grew up on New York City’s St. Marks Place, delivers a captivating, multidimensional history of her native stomping ground… As Calhoun traces the neighborhood’s evolution from wealthy and respectable to gritty and poverty-stricken and back again, she shows how one street can become a microcosm of America’s political and cultural history.” — Publishers Weekly

“The lively history of a three-block area in lower Manhattan where celebrities, public figures and social movements have converged… [Calhoun] has an eye for intriguing — often titillating and little known — tidbits about St. Marks characters.” — The Seattle Times

“Zippy…meticulous.” — Choire Sicha, Bookforum, Fall 2015

“Ada Calhoun’s St. Marks Is Dead is engaging and informative, an essential book of NYC history.” — Largehearted Boy, February 8, 2016.

“Vivid…Despite writing about the streets where she was raised, Calhoun has produced the less nostalgic book. This is where she gets the book’s irony-laden name: every time another movement swept over the street, erasing its predecessors, disgruntled residents declared that the St. Marks of their youth was ‘dead.’ But the street always reemerged in vibrant new forms, and Calhoun insists the neighborhood—despite gentrification and sky-high rent—is no more dead now than it was 40 years ago.” — “The Surprising Histories of the Coolest Streets in New York and Paris,” The New Republic, October 30, 2015.

“Anarchists. Beatniks. Hippies. Punks. Revolutionaries. Our kind of people. Those who made it to New York City, most likely logged many hours on St. Marks Place… One of our favorite new books” — Bowery Boogie

“Riveting…absorbing.” — Library Journal, October 20115

One of “The Most Compelling Nonfiction Titles” of Fall 2015 — The Millions

One of “The 100 Books Every New Yorker Should Read” — Brooklyn magazine

“A spirited review of the many utopias, personal and political, that thrived in the East Village.” — A New York Times Editors’ Choice, December 11, 2015.

One of the best gift books for the holidays — New York Public Library Help Desk, via Daily News

“[Starred Review] An illuminating stroll through the decades of one of the most culturally significant streets in America…breezy…engagingly personal…Rather than a nostalgic lament, this revelatory book celebrates an indelible cultural imprint.” — Kirkus Reviews, which also included the book on its list of “The Best Books of 2015.”

One of the best books of the year — Boston Globe, 2015, which earlier in the year wrote in “Fall Suggestions“: “Calhoun makes a case for the enduring relevance and legacy of St. Marks Place, the quintessential downtown street and home to everyone from W.H. Auden to Keith Haring.”

“One of the best books of the year.” — Orlando Weekly

“One of our favorite books of 2015.” — New York Post

“Calhoun treats us to stories of St. Marks Place’s role in American dramas as varied as presidential candidate Abraham Lincoln’s 1860 speech at the brand new Cooper Union and poet Ted Berrigan holding court outside the Gem Spa to the rise of punk fashion at stores like Trash and Vaudeville, and Manic Panic. Calhoun’s cool, sharp prose makes the street come alive, no matter the era at hand.. What [the book] offers — along with its tales of hippie and yippie escapades, hilarious takedowns of mainstream 1980’s pop stars and intimate portraits of working families in one of Manhattan’s oldest neighborhoods — is a blueprint for seeing through the façade of nostalgia and easy sentimentality that too often dominate conversations about urban space in America.” — ArtsATL


Quoted in several stories about the punk store Trash & Vaudeville moving off of St. Marks Place, including in the New York Times, February 28, 2016.

First Serial: The New Yorker. “The Many Lives of St. Marks Place,”, October 30, 2015.

“The Craziest Stories About St. Marks Place,” New York Post, November 8, 2015.

“The Gospel of St. Marks: The 3 Coolest Blocks in American History,” Details, November 2015. “St. Marks Place, a three-block stretch in New York City’s East Village, has been home to gangsters, artists, poets, Marxists, Beats, hippies, Yippies, punks, crusties, squatters, and (most recently) NYU trust-funders. In St. Marks Is Dead: The Many Lives of America’s Hippest Street (W.W. Norton; $28), author Ada Calhoun vividly chronicles this countercultural epicenter, tracing its origins back to the 1600s, when it was likely a humble pear orchard planted by the peg-legged Calvinist Peter Stuyvesant.”

“Punk’s Main Drag,” Billboard, November 13, 2015, which also calls St. Marks Is Dead “an excellent history book.”

“The Author of St. Marks Is Dead on the $200 Apartment She Grew Up in and What Made Her Move to Brooklyn” — Brick Underground, October 29, 2015

“The 13 People You Meet on St. Marks Place” — Bedford+Bowery, October 29, 2015

“St. Marks Place: Is This America’s Coolest Street?” — The Guardian, October 27, 2015

“Nelson Algren loved Chicago’s Division Street, and Atlanta’s Little Five Points is sometimes called the South’s own Haight-Ashbury, but there is no block in the country quite like St. Marks, which has kept its cool through more turnovers than a Dutch bakery.” — Men’s Journal, November 2015

“Ada Calhoun’s Tales of Hedonism and Tolerance” — Q&A with Sound Dessert, Austin

“What’s Next for St. Marks Place?” — Metro newspaper. November 17, 2015.

Radio and TV

“One of the main reasons I returned to ‘Life After Rent’ was to talk to Ada Calhoun in front of the Death Star.” — Benjamen Walker’s Theory of Everything: “Life After Rent,” Director’s Cut

“A terrific book, reminds me of Joseph Mitchell.” — Rick Kogan, WGN in Chicago

“This is a supremely readable, fascinating book — and it led me to see some familiar landmarks with a new appreciation for the history that was made there.” — June Thomas, NY1, December 2015. (Also see “New Book Explores Cool Factor of St. Marks Place” with Roger Clark, NY1 segment, October 23, 2015.)

“A fascinating history… [Calhoun’s] perspective on this constantly-evolving street is unique and deep…Don’t miss this trip to ‘the epicenter of American cool.’” — The Municipal Arts Society Podcast (we cover 400 years in 30 minutes, November 2015.

“Such a fun read…fascinating.” — Owen Egerton, KUT in Austin


“Ada Calhoun has nailed St. Marks Place. With her fluid prose, wide-angle focus, and eye for detail, she brings to life the brilliant tumble of personalities and ephemeral but reverberating events that have marked it since the nineteenth century. And she leaves open the possibility, faint but thrilling, that its term as a beacon of alternative culture might not be over.” — Luc Sante, author of Low Life

“What an entertaining and exhilarating read. Deeply researched and thought-provoking, this book is a joyride through the history of New York.” — Jami Attenberg, author of The Middlesteins

St. Marks Is Dead is a rich, gorgeously woven tapestry of capitalism, anarchy, riots, organized crime, literary feuds, con artists, hippies, hipsters, beatniks, deadbeats, punks, revolutionaries, drag queens, chaos, and thrilling, only-in-New York adventure. With a reporter’s eye for detail and a poet’s flair for language, Ada Calhoun has crafted a lush love letter to America’s most fascinating street.” — Karen Abbott, author of Sin in the Second City

“The New York Dolls, the Ramones, the Velvet Underground, Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, and a million other bands (including mine) spent time on St. Marks Place. Ada Calhoun’s wonderful book tells punk’s story in a totally new and exciting way. Plus, it has more sex-per-page than any cultural history I’ve ever read.” — Kathleen Hanna

“As a teenager I skateboarded, wrote music, and drank malt liquor on St. Marks Place. After the early ’80s, I thought the street was dead. But in this terrific book Ada Calhoun proves that every generation had its moment.” — Adam Horovitz

“I love this funny, sad, amazing book. From the Peter Stuyvesants to Emma Goldmans to Janis Joplins, to the Richard Hells and the Phoebe Legeres, Manic Panic and places to buy Quaaludes and vintage shoes, St. Marks Place is the most interesting street in the world, because it doesn’t try to be. It’s abnormal and impossible and ugly and sexy and annoying and inspiring. And the story was written by a St. Marks child, which is probably the only way it could’ve been told.” — Colin Quinn

“As a 32-year resident of New York, I am always eager to discover something new about this great city. Ada Calhoun’s spellbinding book contains so much riveting history that was heretofore unknown to me, and her portrayal of the characters brings the history alive as vividly as an epic TV drama. For me, St. Marks Place Is Dead rivals Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City.” — Tim Gunn

“Roll up. Roll up for the St. Marks Place tour! Ada Calhoun will take you on a hilarious and poignant ride through the history of one of the world’s most storied streets. At once an archaeologist, detective, and charismatic tour guide, Ada unearths the hidden historical gems that give the street its richness and depth. But she also uncovers a profound truth: life on St. Marks Place ebbs and flows but it always moves forward, and the most important time is now.” — Lili Taylor



There are 70 images in the book, most never before published. Here are a few of them:


For an author bio go here. For author photos, go here. For appearance dates, go here. For reviews of St. Marks Is Dead go here. For an FAQ about the book go here. For more clips than you could ever want to read go hereContact:

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