Corona, Victor. “Night Class: A Downtown Memoir”, Soft Skill Press, 2017.
New York Nightlife
NYU sociologist Victor P. Corona wanted to learn about New York City nightlife and so he partook of night classes held in galleries, nightclubs, bars, apartments, stoops, and all-night diners and he about love, loss, and the possibilities of identity. He transformed himself from an academic professor into a club-goer as he immersed himself into downtown New York where there are “dazzling tribes of artists and performers hungry for fame.”
In “Night Class: A Downtown Memoir”, Corona investigates the glamour of New York nightlife. He interviews and goes out with party people and those who influence them including Party Monster and convicted killer Michael Alig. He exposes downtown’s drugs, ambition, and power. He was a closeted, undocumented Mexican boy who became an Ivy League graduate and a nightlife writer and he shares “the thrill and tragedy of downtown and how dramatically identities can change.”
This is an original memoir about Victor Corona’s transformation from nerd to NYU’s celebrated ‘professor of nightlife ’ as well as a cultural history and ethnographic exploration of New York nightlife and the concept of self. A scholar by day and party goer by night, Corona takes sociology to the streets to show us a little known scene that takes place every night in the Big Apple. Here is the glamorous and dangerous world of downtown New York circa 2011.
Corona reminds us “of the power and primal immediacy of real, live night life.” We read of the seductive magic of the downtown club scene and those who participate in it,. This is part-memoir, part-oral history, and part-academic analysis yet it is intimate in the way it looks at the attraction of nightlife and particularly the possibility of self-fashioned identities. He examines the drive to ‘make it’ in these small subcultural scenes, writing about the heights and the pitfalls of Downtown nightlife.
Corona interviews members of Andy Warhol’s Factory, some not long before their deaths. He worked with perhaps Michael Alig after Alig was released from prison for his part in a brutal killing. He sees Alig as a man whose personality could be divided into four parts: The Thinker, the Addict, the Child and the Manipulator and the profound Thinker was overshadowed by the more dangerous other sides. We also read Corona’s own story from being illegal immigrant to becoming college student to learning to make his way around clubs and parties. He shows us a world that most of us would be uncomfortable in.
Corona takes a hard look at the people who come out to play at midnight in downtown Manhattan and shares stories of the bright and ugly sides of nightlife. He knows the scene firsthand. He is reinvented from someone who could not past the velvet rope to an insider with backstage access. Thus it is a portrait of a person and a city. Corona’s story is both prescient and poignant and always interesting. “Night Class” is a fascinating read and a compelling journey.