Evelyn Waugh in Brideshead Revisited got it right when he wrote: "For in that city [New York] there is neurosis in the air which the inhabitants mistake for energy".
Im doing an essay on NYC and was wondering if you had a source for the Walt Whitman quote?
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An instructive and enjoyable piece. But there is one writer who is not mentioned in this article and certainly should have been. He spent his last lonely years in the City. Melville wrote of the City perhaps most memorably in his great novella 'Bartleby the Scrivener'. This work brings out another side of the City , the incredible sense of alienation and loneliness which may come to the individual in confronting the great mass of humanity he can somehow not really connect with and be a part of.
The road to becoming a great writer begins at birth, not with the first praise. Yet, New Yorkers have an uncanny ability to take credit for the entirety of this process as though a unique and compelling way of looking at the world is somehow in the water.
To steal a joke from Dom Irerra: New York should place a large mirror on the Jersey shore so NY can admire itself.
Very good article btw.
Quaint and nostalgic, but there's no reason to stumble into NYC to make it as a writer when the Internet has diffused most of what rubes like Sinclair Lewis went to the Big Apple for. Where I live, Charlottesville, VA there are more than 50 published writers, including Rita Dove, Anne Beattie, John Casey, and John Grisham, as well as two of the six just-announced winners of the Isherwood Award for fiction. New Yawk is a museum piece like your great-grandmother's corset.
What a wonderful article! Would the author be so good as to name the source of Henry James' comments on the Lower East Side? Letters? Which ones?
I love it, as I was a mere lad of 44 when I hit the wiggly rooms of the Algonquin, in search of a dream. I found it and moved to Midtown, corner of 37th and Lex in 1987 then to my true love, TriBeCa at 90 Hudson. I left America in 2006 for my homeland of Aotearoa New Zealand and to this day lust for the faces of 5th and 42nd Street, I will return
The first large city that grabbed me was Calcutta, the second New York. Neither have loosened their grip. I return again and again, in person when I can, through literature and journalism when I cannot.
I am always excited to read a new homage to New York, to see if there's something new that I might have otherwise missed. But alas, I am often distracted by the author's gaze, in this case, by how limited it is. New York has been home to, and captured the imagination of, such a large range of writers, but here there is only a small slice.
I cannot imagine an article about literary New York that cannot see beyond white people and a few Jews. New York was home to the Harlem renaissance and just the other day three new NY stories by Zora Neale Hurston were discovered. Indeed the New York I have come to know and love is written out by the likes of Langston Hughes, James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison, more recently Colson Whitehead and Victor LaValle, and so many others. But other than Toni Morrison's name dropped inside a list, it would seem that the author of this article does not read widely or is for other reasons blind to the New Yorks outside his rather small comfort zone.
Thank you for that quick primer on New York in the literary imagination.
Where is the "New York" of today? Los Angeles? Shanghai? Tokyo? Mumbai? Somehow I suspect that New York is New York - despite the obvious energy elsewhere.
I was In Newyork in May 2001. I stay in youth Hostel. Gatekeeper of Hostel told me Newyork is crazy city.He came from France to Newyork. When I was in Orlando one Indian lady told me you visited Newyork than nothing remain for you to see other city of U.S.All over the world Newyork created legend, myth.I spend six day in Newyork visited every nuke and corner of city,I did not found city is crazy.I visited all metro of world.London, Paris, Rome, Tokyo,Berlin all western cities are same way running.Why Newyork is legend I never understand
I am wondering why one of the greatest anatomists of New York society, Thomas Wolfe, does not even register a namedrop in this piece.
This is a very cute article, if a bit insular and self-congratulatory.
Henry James got it right.
Most of these authors knew the US and New York. And the english language. And nothing else. Why then do they know that NYC was the most bequilling and inspiring place on the 'planet' ?. To take the US for the planet is exactly one of the big problems of too many in the US.
Sigh--more solipsistic drivel about New York. Well, it certainly has the most narcissistic writers. And Saul Bellow as a New York writer ? Come again ?? I guess that makes every author who transits through O'Hare a Chicago writer.
What arrant nonsense !
"No other urban area, not even London or Paris, has provoked such strong opinions or inspired so many novels, short stories, and nonfiction narratives."
This is simply and demonstrably not true. There was no need to weaken this otherwise fine overview of literature in and about New York with weak hyperbole.
I think you are rather over-romantic about the City, not that there is another in the USA that can artistically rival it, but that the main action is happening in its outer environs (A Tree Grows in Bklyn) i.e. its suburbs and exurbs. It's just too expensive and restrictive to plan great dreams or be part of its worldwind scene.
An engaging review of New York writers, mostly last century, who followed a familiar pattern--or not.
It seems there are so may facets to New York that it depends on the prejudices of the eyes of the beholder whether it attracts or repels.Fortunately, it is lager enough to accomdate both the extremes and the middle-ers. And for Tom Wolfe; I have discovered the reason for your white suits; Dandruff. And P.S. There is no umlaut on my keyboard, and I can't lay a colon on its side. How do I copy Hillstromj without the two dots over the "o"? They are a nuisance,like the two periods the kid at the blackboard told the teacher were causing such excitement around his home; his sister had missed them.