By Annie Basulto
Vincent Livelli was excited to make his first appearance in public in a few years. On January 27th, we launched The Vincent Livelli Preservation Project at the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation. This project was designed to transcribe the vibrant manuscripts of Livelli, a 96-year-old Greenwich Village resident. Below, is a slightly edited excerpt from his piece entitled Anatole’s Umbrella.
“One rainy day, I entered a thrift shop where, for three dollars, I bought an umbrella that had originally cost three hundred! With its gnarled handle and sturdy frame, it popped open like a champagne bottle, displaying its aristocratic essence. I had never seen one in America and only once noticed one in an old English movie. It amazed me that, in 1973, such a utilitarian, and more or less household item, could be so precious, and that I knew nothing about it.”
The afternoon began with a visit from the barber, Sincere Giles, who was honored to groom Livelli, followed by his friend and photographer Tina Buckman and my sister, Alexis Basulto.
Livelli was pleased to stand in front of a room of new and old faces, sharing the historical background of his upbringing on Sullivan Street and of his Italian family migrating to New York. Guests included Bliss Broyard, daughter of Anatole Broyard, who took a moment to share her life-long friendship with Livelli. Broyard told the story of the Cornelia Bookstore, which was opened by Livelli and her father on Cornelia Street in the 1940s. She expressed the young men’s love of books, and how literature was a key part of their lives at that time, in connection with Greenwich Village.
WestView News reader Rita Brause also attended, together with other volunteers interested in learning how to become transcribers. After a short training workshop, the room immediately focused on the task at hand, creating a very exciting energy in the room. The Vincent Livelli Preservation Project also recruited remote volunteers who transcribed work from their home states in real time, creating a community effort that made its way down the East Coast.
Livelli was grateful for the public’s interest in preserving his work. He watched in amazement as volunteers dissected his words, encounters, and experiences with great pride while they typed on their keyboards. Transcribing an essay can evoke the same feelings as attending a short history lesson, except that Livelli’s writings contain the first-hand experiences and perspectives of a person who lived through many “times.” Living through the depression, WWII, and the cultural shift of the Village provided Livelli with a sharp lens through which he views life and change.
Our quest to transcribe his work and to connect with the community has just begun. We are still seeking local volunteers, remote volunteers, and resources to expedite our goal of transcribing the priceless work of Vincent Livelli. (He will celebrate his 97th birthday on April 9th!)
For more information, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call Annie Basulto at (646) 243-4221. Upcoming events will take place at the Jefferson Market Library in April. Stay tuned for more details.