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Grand Central Winter: Stories from the Street Paperback – 1 Nov 1999


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Product details

  • Paperback: 258 pages
  • Publisher: Washington Square Press; Reprint edition (1 Nov. 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671036548
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671036546
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.5 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,954,649 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

Curled deep in his burrow in a Grand Central Station crawlspace, Lee Stringer--ragged, homeless, addicted to crack--is digging around for something he can use to clean his crack pipe. Finally his fingers latch around "some sort of smooth straight stick": a pencil. In the days that follow, he carries it with him wherever he goes. "So I have this pencil with me all the time and then one day I'm sitting there in my hole with nothing to smoke and nothing to do and I pull the pencil out just to look at the film of residue stuck to the sides--you do that sort of thing when you don't have any shit--and it dawns on me that it's a pencil. I mean it's got a lead in it and all, and you can write with the thing." And so that's what he does. "Pretty soon I forget all about hustling and getting a hit. I'm scribbling like a maniac; heart pumping, adrenaline rushing, hands trembling. I'm so excited I almost crap on myself. It's just like taking a hit."

Grand Central Winter is the tale of Stringer's twin addictions--writing and crack--and the lengths he went to in order to satisfy each. But Stringer dwells on neither his descent into hell nor the long journey back. Instead, he paints a nuanced portrait of street life itself, its pleasures as well as its terrors. Hustlers, hookers, dealers and addicts come to life in a series of vignettes that are tough, unsentimental, but compassionate to the core. There's honest rage to be found in Grand Central Winter, but precious little political posturing. "Policy is never the real issue," he writes in "Dear Homey," his advice column for New York's homeless paper, Street News. "The real issue is the hearts of men." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


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First Sentence
What happened was I was digging around in my hole-there's this long, narrow, crawl space in Grand Central's lower regions, of which few people are aware and into which I moved some time ago. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By E. Bleet on 13 Sept. 2001
Format: Paperback
A book by a black homeless crack addict, should not, if we are to believe media images, be a thought provoking insight into American culture. But is is indeed that. This book provides a very interesting picture of life on the streets of New York. It is written from an objective point of view and while making no secret of the fact that the writer has been through hard times, we are not asked to feel sorry for him. He has emerged from his time as a homeless New Yorker as a very astute and prolific writer. I cannot help but admire this man who has been to the bottom and brought himself back up. He has strong views on politics and sociology, which I found inspiring and I want to read more!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 14 Sept. 1999
Format: Paperback
I believe that this book is a simple story that tackles the complex issues of what it is that makes people happy.
Lee goes from a "normal" life to a street bum in nine months. Why do people become street bums? Who are these people and are they that badly off? Lee answers these questions and really puts into perspective what true success is.
I am a fairly "normal" person, but have benifited greatly from a man that has made a journey I wouldn't dare take.
Conclusion: Buy it!
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By J. Chheda on 27 Feb. 2010
Format: Hardcover
Lee Stringer's endearing narrative about lives of the homeless on the streets of NYC is heartfelt, poignant and touching but humorous from the word go! His fall from a middle-class adman down to a homeless crack addict is disheartening. Between collecting cans to get by and spend every other penny for the next joint, he discovers the joy of writing in the hole in the wall in Grand Central Station. Tiny tales of lives of the hooker on the street, his pals, the cop on the beat to the side-show that was Times Square. Tickles the intellect with speak of the scribe who is also the homey, this takes you to the streets of Manhatten and evokes a new sense of understanding for the homeless.
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Format: Paperback
A very well written account of one man's efforts to keep his head above water in New York's homeless society,
this should make people think about the people they pass in the street and not treat them as the scum of society.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 44 reviews
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Amazing Writing 15 July 2000
By R. M. Calitri - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Lee Stringer's writing so impressed me that I began sharing it with students in my writing courses to illustrate a variety of points--the power of emotion in honest writing, the plight of the homeless in a rich country, the power of writing to pull a soul from the mire. If my introduction doesn't tempt you to read this book, Kurt Vonnegut's will.
In this short book, Stringer tells his street stories which have the power to make a grown man swear and choke back tears at the same time; I've witnessed this myself more than once. This book is written with a mix of grit and fragmented paragraphs to produce an amazingly unique style that illustrates the dark and haunted caverns in the writer's mind. Stringer found his way off of drugs and mean streets by writing about his experiences and sharing them in the homeless publication Street News which he later went on to edit. His stories are raw and loud.
This country cares too little for its disenfranchised, and too easily looks away from the homeless and downtrodden (Stringer says,"They see only a phenomenon to which they have already adjusted"). Stringer's words will thread readers' hearts with the compassion they require to truly live an examined life in the USA. And besides, the guy is so quotable: "It's the guilt, fear, and stones in your own heart that take you down;" or "Heroism, as I see it, requires a deliberate decision to assume avoidable risks specifically--not incidentally--for the sake of another." Stringer's is an important voice. Do not miss this book.
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Stringer helps us see beyond "the homeless" 6 Jan. 2000
By Todd - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
To come away from this book with a new compassion for "the homeless" is to completely miss the point. Stringer's contribution is so valuable precisely because it shows us that there is no such thing as "the homeless" as if it were some pathetic, faceless, homogeneous mob. Rather, his storytelling challenges us to see each person on the street as an individual with his or her own character, needs, desires, and flaws. Some are deserving of compassion, but others are not. By showing us this, Stringer avoids being patronizing and gives homeless people the dignity that comes with personhood. Indeed, it is interesting that the characters he tells us about are not necessarily unhappy with their lives and looking for some way to get out. Stringer himself speaks of embracing the street life because of the liberation it offered and leaves when he chooses to because he is finally sick of it.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
It's literary memoir, not social commentary 19 Feb. 2008
By Kerry Walters - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Several reviewers criticize Stringer's Grand Central Winter for what they see as its lack of information about life on the streets as well as an absence of narrative cohesion. While I sympathize with both of these complaints, I also think they're misguided.

In the first place, Stringer doesn't claim to be writing social commentary or advocating social reforms. His book is a memoir, pure and simple. His stories are from the street, as the book's subtitle announces, but not necessarily about the street. Obviously in describing his life on the streets, Stringer necessarily sheds some light on what street life in general is like. Just as obviously, he also has a few things to say in passing about public policy (he's especially bitter about the "antiseptic Good Samaritanism" of large-scale relief agencies). But the focus of his book is sharing his own experiences living on the street.

And this takes us to the second point: Stringer's writes about selected experiences. He's not really trying to tell a neatly packaged story with a clear beginning, middle, and end. (Philosophers might describe his approach as "phenomenological.") I don't know why Stringer chose to write about the episodes in his life he did. Some of them are probably consciously chosen; others may've forced themselves onto the empty page. But the point is that they're vignettes, not sequential episodes that together tell a full-fledged story.

For my money, the vignettes are wonderfully written. Their minimalist style sets an almost photographic tone: to the point, revelatory, unsentimental, sometimes grim. Stringer successfully resists the temptation to demonize or romanticize.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Interesting reading 3 May 2002
By Scott Owczarzak - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Lee Stringer can write! This book is what more books should be, entertaining. It's amazing to get this man's thoughts and philosophies from the precise time when he was homeless and addicted to drugs. Wonderful to read and fun to discuss. I speak with confidence when I say "You will enjoy this book."
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Disappointing 4 Mar. 2000
By H. J. Wakenshaw - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
From the rave reviews in the press and the number of eager customers I've sold this book to lately, I really expected something that would be, if not great, then at least special.
I was disappointed. Stringer CAN write, which he proves by including in this undemanding (but refreshingly unassuming) autobiography extracts from his magazine column, which are eloquent, finely crafted and full of attitude. Why then, does his book seem so rushed, unstructured and sloppy in comparison?
Sure, his story is an interesting one, and he does tell it with admirable (and enjoyable) honesty. But it seems like a cobbled together hodgepodge of sacharine memories, scraps of previously published material, and disjointed annecdotes and stories. The overall impression is one of a manuscript that fell short of the required number of words, was padded out with unimaginative extras, and repetition of previous sections (with slightly different wording) then dropped carelessly, only to be equally carelessly gathered back up and delivered to the publishers without being set back in some sort of order.
I have the utmost admiration for Stringer, his honesty and eventual progress. But I get the feeling that most people are basing their opinions of this book on their own admiration for the author, rather than its literary qualities, which, unless we're talking about different books here, are rather scant.
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