Alfred Kazin burst onto the American literary scene in 1942, when his first book, "On Native Grounds," announced the arrival of an important new literary critic. "A Walker in the City," his second, signaled the other direction his career would follow: author of several intense, intimate, and lyrical memoirs.
Years later he would admit how he struggled writing it. He thought he wanted to concentrate on New York itself, describing a series of walks around the city. But what emerged was the story of his own boyhood encounters with it, starting from Brownsville, the Brooklyn Jewish neighborhood of his birth, then stretching out to alluring, mysterious Manhattan and from there to the world.
Each walk is simultaneously a journey out and a journey in: outward, from the neighborhood to the land beyond, the great, electric, canyoned streets of the city; inward, into his own soul, as it grows and falls in love with books and language and literature, with music and metaphysics and politics, with the city and the country and the world and rapturously tries to take them all in.