There’s a new book out that is a must for lovers of Nyack and for anyone who enjoys a well told story of a town. For the past few years, Nyackers have looked forward every Tuesday to the Nyack Sketch Log by Bill Batson on the website Nyack News and Views.
Each week Bill explores an aspect of Nyack’s past or present through an original pen and ink sketch and a written essay. Now the best of Nyack Sketch Log is available in book form, and the individual entries coalesce into something even better – an illustrated biography of the community.
Bill Batson sketches the things that we see every day in Nyack and vicinity—things that we often pass without noticing–and, in powerful linked essays, he reminds and instructs us why they are important, unique, significant, or even wonderful. He almost never includes people in his slightly askew ink sketches, but his text always leads to the people related to the objects he has drawn, and they turn out to be the founders of our community, the creators of our culture, our neighbors who are doing very special things, or just someone he would like us to meet. Taken together they make a description of a community that is amazingly diverse, deeply layered, unusually creative, tolerant of differences and absolutely unique.
The artist-author’s viewpoint as a member of one of Nyack’s deeply rooted African American families is clear from the beginning and consistently informs all of his work, but in a nonjudgmental way that people of all backgrounds can relate to. He is an accomplished artist whose pen and ink drawings have a consistent and recognizable style that not only describes but interprets his subjects. His writing is clear and well organized, covering his subjects in a compelling manner that will draw you from one to the next until you wonder where the evening went. But it is as a historian that I think Bill Batson truly excels. He thoroughly researches his subjects, consulting written records as well as knowledgeable people, and seeks authoritative critiques of his work before it is published. Then through his background, education and experience, he is able to present the results, not as a list of facts, but as a dramatic unfolding that brings out the significance of the subject and places it in the context of Nyack and the world.
To all readers of the New York History Blog, I heartily recommend Nyack Sketch Log: An Artist and Writer Explores the History of a Hudson River Village, by Bill Batson. It is available at the Pickwick Book Shop in Nyack, the Nyack Farmers’ Market and via billbatsonarts.com.
Winston Perry, an architect with a specialty in historic preservation, is a lifetime resident of the Nyack area. He is the village historian for Upper Nyack, president of the Historical Society of the Nyacks, a former trustee for the Historical Society of Rockland County, and a member of the Rockland County Board for Historic Preservation.