In Bill Cheng’s “Engine”, a guy just a few years older—in his twenties—“gets hired on as a researcher at a charitable organization in Midtown Manhattan” where he earns $12/hour for fifteen hours work each week, in a “small cubicle by the fire exit, an out-of-the-way place that’s easy to forget”, writing profiles of people who might donate (e.g. doctors, lawyers, industrialists)—a curious job for a writer.
Valeria Luiselli writes in “Zapata Boulevard” about how “this area was once farmland and that Broadway was an Indian trail that connected these hills and valleys to Manhattan’s southern top”, how difficult it was to intuit “the soundscapes and landscapes of the island’s former days”. She writes about a massacre on the eastern bank of the Hudson, a raid on the Weckquaesgeeks Indians, and about how the area now occupied by Columbia University’s Morningside campus was a lunatic asylum until the late 1880s. She observes the way that trees grow out of P.S. 186 “an H-shaped Second Renaissance building from the early 1900s that has been abandoned for almost half a century” which her daughter calls a “school for trees”.
I also watched a couple of films: a 2009-indie set in Brooklyn “Love Simple” and last year’s “A Rainy Day in New York”. And, along the way, while listening to Amy Schumer’s 2016 memoir The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo discovered her bit on New York apartments.
There are loads of great NYC reads and in another reading year, I’d’ve probably made different choices (relying more heavily on the library, for instance). I know others here have favourites (Susan, I know you’ve already added to my NYC reading list, in particular!): what’s your favourite, today, in this moment?
Previous travel destinations this year, inspired by my desk calendar, have included Copenhagen, London, Havana, Kyoto, Paris, San Francisco, Marrakech, Mexico City, Rome, Shanghai and Amsterdam. Next year’s iteration of Here and Elsewhere will look a little different: I’m excited!