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April 03 , 2008

An Ambitious Woman: A Novel


If any spot on the globe can be found where even Spring has lost the sweet trick of making herself charming, a cynic in search of an opportunity for some such morose discovery might thank his baleful stars were chance to drift him upon Greenpoint. Whoever named the place in past days must have done so with a double satire; for Greenpoint is not a point, nor is it ever green. Years ago it began by being the sluggish suburb of a thriftier and smarter suburb, Brooklyn. By degrees the latter broadened into a huge city, and soon its neighbor village stretched out to it arms of straggling huts and swampy river-line, in doleful welcome. To-day the affiliation is complete. Man has said let it all be Brooklyn, and it is all Brooklyn. But the sovereign dreariness of Greenpoint, like an unpropitiated god, still remains. Its melancholy, its ugliness, its torpor, its neglect, all preserve an unimpaired novelty. It is very near New York, and yet in atmosphere, suggestion, vitality, it is leagues away. Our noble city, with its magnificent maritime approaches, its mast-thronged docks, its lordly encircling rivers, its majesty of traffic, its gallant avenues of edifices, its loud assertion of life, and its fine promise of riper culture, fades into a dim memory when you have touched, after only a brief voyage, upon this forlorn opposite shore. No Charon rows you across, though your short trip has too often the most funereal associations. You take passage in a squat little steamboat at either of two eastern ferries, and are lucky if a hearse with its satellite coaches should fail to embark in your company; for, curiously, the one enlivening fact associable with Greenpoint is its close nearness to a famed Roman Catholic cemetery. It is doubtful if the unkempt child wading in the muddy gutter ever turns his frowzy head when these dismal retinues stream past him.
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