“To see the real city,” Terry Williams writes in the introduction to his Cosmopolitan Life series of urban, ethnographic works, “you must descend deep into the shadows, go into the bowels of the city and be guided through history, remembrance and the sensorium, capturing a mosaic of people and places.” In Williams’ latest book, Le Boogie Woogie: Inside and After-Hours Club, Williams takes on this task for his readers, combining ethnography, narrative storytelling, and research to intricately illustrate a world most of us have no access to. As a longtime editor for Willams, our founder and lead editor, Dr. Weiner, was invited to a reading and talk for Le Boogie Woogie hosted at the Harlem Arts Salon.
According to his New School profile, Williams focuses are “teenage life and culture, drug abuse, crews and gangs, and violence and urban social policy,” and Le Boogie Woogie dives into those issues. “From the raunchy life of players, madams, hipsters, poets, musicians, voyeurs and others,” Williams writes, Le Boogie Woogie “is about and for people interested in the fast life of the city where cocaine use and sex are commonplace.”
“I am insatiably curious about the life of other people,” Williams said at the reading. “Some would say I’m nosy,” he joked. An article about the reading at the Harlem Arts Salon in Social Research Matters, ‘Terry Williams: The Cosmopolitan Life of an Urban Ethnographer’, explains how his work is largely unprecedented. “‘No study had been done on cocaine users in their natural setting or to describe users as they lived,’ he writes in the book’s introduction. Others told him it wasn’t a good idea, ‘…but my job as a researcher is to see if I can gain the trust and acceptance of people other than my kinfolk’” (Social Research Matters).
Le Boogie Woogie was the latest addition to Williams’ Cosmopolitan Life series. CambridgeEditors had the pleasure of working with Williams on two upcoming books of his, The Soft City: On Voyeurism and Engagement and The Vanishing Indian Upper Class which will be released in July of this year.