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Bob Rosenthal reads from Cleaning Up New York

Before Bob Rosenthal became Allen Ginsberg’s secretary in 1977, he was cleaning apartments in NYC and studying for an MA in writing with Francine de Plessix Gray, the writer and critic, whose class was focused on nonfiction, the new journalism and older journalism like Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London, and the work of Ida Tarbell, the great Pennsylvania journalist and nemesis of John D. Rockefeller, whose investigative reporting ended the monopoly of Standard Oil, and proved, once and for all, that the pen is mightier than the sword. Bob wanted his MA dissertation to be in the first person and as honest as Tarbell and Orwell. He made an outline and began to write. About what? Cleaning, of course, because that was what he was doing. It took him ten weeks. Half way through he got bogged down, but luckily he was also taking a poetry workshop at Saint Mark’s Church with Bernadette Mayer. “Write it in the present tense,” Bernadette suggested. Down and Out in Paris and London was in the present, Bob remembered, and the present he discovered uses less words than the past. And that was that. Cleaning Up New York is a fun read, an enlightened read, the excitement of a young writer read, all there in one book, the perfect gift. “There is not one lie in it,” Bob says.

Cleaning Up New York was first published by Angel Hair Books in 1976. Bob’s wife, Rochelle Kraut, illustrated the front and back covers, and Maryann Garduzi took the photograph of Bob in his cleaning clothes.




Cleaning Up New York was republished by The Little Bookroom in 2016. For more information about The Little Bookroom:


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