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There have been several important literary movements in New York City. One of the first American writers to gain critical acclaim in Europe, Washington Irving, was a New Yorker whose History of New York (1809) became a cultural touchstone for Victorian New York. Diedrich Knickerbocker, an old-fashioned Dutch New Yorker in Irving's satire of chatty and officious local history, made "knickerbocker" a bye-word for quaint Dutch-descended New Yorkers, with their old-fashioned ways and their long-stemmed pipes and knee-breeches long after the fashion had turned to trousers. Thus the New York Knicks, whose corporate name is the "New York Knickerbockers."
The Harlem Renaissance established the African-American literary canon in the United States. The zenith of this "flowering of Negro literature," as James Weldon Johnson called it, was between 1924, when Opportunity magazine hosted a party for black writers where many white publishers were in attendance, and the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and the start of the Great Depression. African-Americans of the northward Great Migration and African and Caribbean immigrants converged in Harlem, which became the most famous center of Negro life in the United States at that time. A militant black editor indicated in 1920 that "the intrinsic standard of Beauty and aesthetics does not rest in the white race" and that "a new racial love, respect, and consciousness may be created." The work of black Harlem writers sought to challenge the pervading racism of the larger white community and often promoted progressive or socialist politics and racial integration. No singular style emerged; instead there was a mix ranging from the celebration of Pan-Africanism, "high-culture" and "street culture," to new experimental forms in literature like modernism, to european classical music and improvisational jazz that inspired the new form of jazz poetry.
The mid-20th century saw the emergence of The New York Intellectuals, a group of American writers and literary critics who advocated leftist, anti-Stalinist political ideas and who sought to integrate literary theory with Marxism. Many of the group were students at the City College of New York in the 1930s and associated with the left-wing political journal The Partisan Review. Writer Nicholas Lemann has described the New York Intellectuals as "the American Bloomsbury". Writers often considered among the New York Intellectuals include Robert Warshow, Philip Rahv, William Phillips, Mary McCarthy, Dwight Macdonald, Lionel Trilling, Clement Greenberg, Irving Kristol, Sidney Hook, Irving Howe, Alfred Kazin, and Daniel Bell.
Parallel and counter to these mainstream groups have been such New York-centered underground movements as the Beat poets and writers, including Alan Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Gregory Corso and others, continuing into the 1980's and beyond with such writers as Kathy Acker and Eileen Myles. Various movements down through the years have centered around avant-garde publishing enterprises such as Grove Press and Evergreen Review, as well as unnumbered zine-style pamphlets and one-off literary productions still available in independent bookstores today. At present the underground continues to thrive in the form of small press literary publishers, including Soft Skull Press, Fugue State Press, Dennis Cooper's Little House on the Bowery/Akashic Press, and many others.
Over the years many literary institutions have developed in the city, including the PEN American Center, the largest of the international literary organization's centers. The PEN American Center plays an important role in New York's literary community and is active in defending free speech, the promotion of literature, and the fostering of international literary fellowship. Literary journals, including The Paris Review, The New York Review of Books, n+1, and New York Quarterly are also important in the city's literary scene.
Contemporary writers based in the city, many of whom live in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn, include Norman Mailer, Don DeLillo, Jhumpa Lahiri, Jonathan Safran Foer, Jonathan Lethem, Thomas Pynchon and many others. New York has also been a flourishing scene for Jewish American literature, as well as for Puerto Rican poets and writers, who call themselves "nuyoricans" (a blending of the phrases "New York" and "Puerto Rican"). The landmark Nuyorican Poets Cafe is a bastion of the Nuyorican Movement, an intellectual movement involving poets, writers, musicians and artists of Puerto Rican descent.
While New York State has an official poet laureate, New York City does not. Instead, by tradition it hosts an annual "People's Poetry Gathering", curated by the City University of New York and city poetry groups, in which ordinary New Yorkers offer their own lines to an epic poem for the city. This technique was also used in the creation of a spontaneous poetic response by New Yorkers to the September 11, 2001 attacks that became a travelling exhibition called Missing: Streetscape of a City in Mourning. The poems, with 110 lines each for the 110 stories of the destroyed World Trade Center towers, were printed on black, billowing cotton banners over 25 feet in height.
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