The transformation of a few Manhattan blocks South of Houston into an epicenter of contemporary art during the ’60s and ’70s is the subject of artist, critic and anthologist Kostelanetz’s brisk memoir, rich in vivid street-level detail and evoking a time that now looks like something of a golden age. While forgivably nostalgic, Kostelanetz (Crimes of Culture) is otherwise evenhanded and thorough, describing not only the multifarious activities in which he was involved but through them the lives and work of such luminaries as theatrical conceptualists Robert Wilson and Richard Foreman, photographers Hannah Wilke and Cindy Sherman, “protean polyartist” Meredith Monk and musicians Philip Glass and Sonic Youth, to name but a few. But the book’s major contribution is its meticulous recounting of the unprecedented confluence of gray-area zoning and occupancy laws coupled with sheer pioneering spirit that led to the area’s development in the first place. Without government assistance and for years flying under the radar of rapacious developers-and without displacing a resident population, for there was none-hardy souls like Kostelanetz and Twyla Tharp stealthily moved into the vast lofts above garment warehouses in search of creative space, quite unaware of the revolution in urban style they were creating. Photographs, notes and an extensive bibliography fill things out terrifically. Like the neighborhood it describes, Kostelanetz’s cheerfully episodic book is full of odd corners, secret alleys and sudden vistas.