‘Only The Dead Know Brooklyn’ by Thomas WolfePosted: June 27, 2014
Only The Dead Know Brooklyn by Thomas Wolfe, 1936
The magic trick:
The first sentence
This story is probably about 30 years ahead of its time. There isn’t much of a plot (it’s more of a sketch than anything), and Wolfe feels no compulsion to deal in symbols or metaphor. It’s the story of a man’s interactions with another man on a train in Brooklyn. Take what you want from it however you will. Wolfe isn’t going to hold the reader’s hand or pull any punches being polite, and all of that is quite clear from the jump.
The first sentence, in just 25 words, establishes a memorable Brooklyn-ese accent, and more importantly, a Brooklyn attitude. Honestly, the rest of the story is just window dressing. The story is captivating, funny, and more than slightly ominous, but I’m not even sure I really have a clue what it’s about. Everything I take from this story is in that first sentence. And that’s quite a trick on Wolfe’s part.
Dere’s no guy livin’ dat knows Brooklyn t’roo an’ t’roo, because it’d take a guy a lifetime just to find his way aroun’ duh f ––––– town.