Generous slices of New York wry, from humorist/essayist Frazier (The Fish’s Eye, 2002, etc.).
Though currently a New Jersey suburbanite, Frazier resided for years in lower Manhattan and Brooklyn. In these 22 pieces from the Atlantic Monthly, Double Take, Mother Jones, Outside and the New Yorker, the native of Hudson, Ohio, celebrates Gotham as only a wide-eyed transplant could. The essays begin in 1975—when the city teetered toward bankruptcy—and end in 2005, when, post-9/11, Frazier wished that city residents would “remain our hopeful, foolish selves while caught up, now inextricably, in the wider world.” Like predecessors A.J. Liebling and Joseph Mitchell, he chronicles the manically funny. More often, he rejoices in the infinite idiosyncrasies encouraged by the city. Three essays describe his hobby of snagging bags out of trees—a penchant so pronounced that his wife grew skeptical when he began bringing some bags home. In marvelous detail, he profiles George Wittig, who climbed the World Trade Center in 1977, as well as an octogenarian master of the lost art of manual-typewriter repair. Frazier even strings together graffiti in a reading room at Columbia University’s Butler Library into a hilarious casual essay. He is equally at home delivering a Whitmanesque hosanna to Brooklyn, a dissection of the groups riding the F Train and a chronicle of Canal Street, jammed with as much sound, character, incident and history as the colorful neighborhood itself.
A vivid collection of essays expertly blending reporting, history, humor and one man’s abiding affection for a city’s quirks.