Rating: 5 Stars
This is a lovely little collection of essays about a city I love so deeply, I can feel it down into the very depths of my soul. Though I have never been there, I feel like NYC is where I belong (second only to Edinburgh of course), and when I finally get to visit I both fear and look forward to never wanting to leave. I fear also that the city I have built up in my head over the years could not possibly truly live up to what I think it will be - but this is NYC we are talking about. The chances are good that it will be exactly what I want it to be, and more.
I have enjoyed reading Frazier's work in The New Yorker and found this collection easy to read in a matter of an hour or two. As with any essay collection, some pieces will be stronger than others, but overall I felt like this one flowed well and there was no essay that I finished and thought, "Wow, that is so out of place among these other essays." I might be a little biased toward Frazier and his work, because I have enjoyed it for so long, but even so, he crafts his tales well.
In this set, we see New York in all her glory - quirks, oddities, curiosities, and all. That is in part what draws me to the city, and perhaps it was best said in the final season of F·R·I·E·N·D·S (I know, I know, not an entirely realistic portrayal of life as a twenty-something in NYC, blah blah blah) when Chandler and Monica are leaving the city and this doesn't sit well with the others:
(only the first two minutes is really applicable)
We see New York from Frazier's perspective, so in this instance the book is as much about him as it is the city he loves. We see how he sees the city, but also how this place has impacted him, how it has changed him over the years. It is a strong message, that we become part of whatever place we inhabit, and it becomes part of us. Sometimes home is not the place where you are born, it is the place where you truly live.
My favorite essay in this collection was "The Morning After". In it Frazier writes of September 11th, 2001 and its aftermath with such truth and clarity even in the face of such confusion and terror. He watched his home, under attack, and the emotions are all right there at the surface. I could really picture it all in my mind, over and over, images made even more real with his words accompanying them.
Frazier loves New York, that passion is obvious. From his minute observations in one essay, to his grander vision in others, he writes powerfully, and well. He is someone who you would want to take you on a tour, to show you some of those quirks, and point out all of the things that make New York, well, New York. Frazier does not give undue praise or criticism, the city is his and he loves it, warts and all. It is gritty and real. Imperfect and wonderful.
When I was growing up in New Jersey, I went to the city many times. I love reading books set there.ReplyDelete
Where in Jersey did you live?? I don't think I could have ever stayed away if I lived that close.Delete