In her second collection (after Kill All Your Darlings, 2007), Lucy Sante pays homage to Patti Smith, Rene Ricard, and Georges Simenon; traces the history of tabloids; surveys the landscape that gave birth to the Beastie Boys; explores the back alleys of vernacular photography; sounds a threnody for the forgotten dead of New York City.
The glue holding the collection together is autobiography. Every item carries deep personal significance, and most are rooted in lived experience, in particular Sante’s youth on the Lower East Side of New York in the fertile 1970s and ’80s. She traces her deep engagement with music, her experience of the city, her progression as an artist and observer, her love life and ambitions. Maybe the People Would Be the Times is organized as a series of sequences, in which one piece leads into the next. Memoir flows into essay, fiction into critical writing, humor into poetry, the pieces answering and echoing one another, examining subjects from multiple vantages. The collection shows Sante at her most lyrical, impassioned, and imaginative, a writer for whom every assignment brings the challenge of inventing a new form.