I call all these posts, “A Year in Books” because my New Years resolution was to read one book a week for every week of the year. But after, discussing this with my family, I think a more apt title might be, “The Blog Post My Family Doesn’t Read Because They Think I’m Boring on Mondays.”
Last week, I read The Gangs of New York by Herbert Asbury. LOVED IT. The stories of New York’s first gangs are sensational, although, probably based more on legend than fact. Nevertheless, I couldn’t put this book down. The Five Points and Bowery gangs had incredibly violent but extraordinary beginnings and had an immense impact on the city of New York that far outlasted their heyday. Asbury tells the tales of these gangs in very descriptive and compelling ways, the way that these legends were meant to be told. Sure, a lot of these stories are embellished but how much fact-checking is really possible when dealing with the secret nature of the gangs? More than anything, this book is a thrilling account of the beginnings of gangs and mobs as we know them today. I have read a lot of books on the Irish Mob and a fair few about other gangs and the Italian mafia but this book is one of the most interesting I have ever read. Maybe because it was written in 1928 when many of these first gangs still held respect in New York. Asbury’s language does seem to hold a tone of respect and nowhere in the book does he pass judgement on the gangs activities- even the most vile. And I mean, some of the things these gangs did were incredibly evil, I literally gasped several times at the description of some of the murders the gang members committed (and I’m no lightweight). Despite the gruesome details, and sad history of the gangs and their formation, I seriously loved this book. I know I already said it but the one word I keep thinking of to describe this book is “compelling”. Also, you kind of have to love a book written by a guy named Herbert.
On the back of the book there is a note that says Martin Scorcsese was so inspired by this book that he made the movie “The Gangs of New York”. Let me tell you something, that movie was nothing like the book. And sure, I already hated this movie for two reasons.
1. Historical inaccuracy
2. Who the heck was Cameron Diaz kidding what that “Irish” accent. She should be ashamed.
But now, I really hate this movie because it was a bastardization of the book. You let me down Scorsese. You let me down, and you let Herbert down. I mean, after all your movies about gangs/mafioso I would have thought you had more respect for who these gangsters really were. I can forgive you, but only because Daniel Day-Lewis as Bill the Butcher (a real Five Points gangster) was crazy brilliant- even if you did set him in a time a decade after his actual death.
So what are you guys reading? Or- if you would rather, what movie based on a book do you hate?