Recollections of life, love and subway rides.
In Goodbye to All That (2013), all the contributors were women. In this sequel, along with women—e.g., Rosanne Cash, Elizabeth Gilbert and Whoopi Goldberg—Botton has invited men, including novelist Alexander Chee, journalist Jason Diamond, founding editor of The Rumpus Stephen Elliott, and Elliott Kalan, head writer for the Daily Show. The essays feature memoirs of assorted New York experiences: growing up, arriving, moving from apartment to apartment, working, finding love, breaking up and occasionally getting mugged. Many writers born elsewhere saw Manhattan as a bright beacon of liberation and reinvention. “I discovered this was the best thing about New York,” writes novelist Patricia Engel, a New Jersey native, “you could run away every day if you wanted to and still find yourself in a newly incarnated version of the city. You never had to be the same person.” New York Times technology reporter Jenna Wortham came and left New York, with sometimes a decade between residencies. She had to learn, she writes, “the calculus and physics of knowing where to walk and at which exact moment to avoid clipping strangers.” Movie references recur in these essays, particularly Woody Allen’s, whose romantic evocations represented an alluring, glamorous dream of life in Manhattan. New York Times Magazine culture editor Adam Sternbergh writes that the idea of New York can become, for a new arrival, “as elusive as a great party you were thrilled to be invited to, yet for which you now realize you lost the address.” As can be expected, the collection is uneven, with a few long, self-indulgent pieces; a few haphazard musings; but several fresh, thoughtful pieces, such as novelist Kathleen Hale’s “Quit Everything,” advice given to her by a psychic; and historian Rachel Syme’s paean to “ESB” (that is, the Empire State Building).
A pleasantly diverting love letter to the iconic city.