Piri Thomas James Nelson Goodsell - Essay

James Nelson Goodsell

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

["Down These Mean Streets"] is both vigorous and compelling. A very uneven book, it is nonetheless consistently readable….

"Down These Mean Streets" is coarse and crude. But this is perhaps as it should be. Life for the Piri Thomases of the United States is not pleasant and cultivated. It is primitive and base….

Despite the rapidity with which the book concludes, the pages devoted to Piri's prison term and his final shaking of the drug habit once he is out of prison are a magnificent testament of how man can overcome not only his own handicaps, but also the even more blatant obstacles put in his path by others….

Through Piri Thomas's rough-hewn words shines a new voice, one which may well add significant chapters to ethnic literature in the United States. The struggle of those living in Spanish Harlem appears to have found a chronicler. There is a rugged elegance in Thomas's first book. In his second, on which he is now at work, he should be able to relieve the repetitiveness of his language and smooth out his descriptions and characters. Even without this improvement, however, it is awaited with eagerness.

James Nelson Goodsell, "A New Voice for Spanish Harlem," in The Christian Science Monitor (reprinted by permission from The Christian Science Monitor; © 1967 The Christian Science Publishing Society; all rights reserved), June 15, 1967, p. 9.