great writers on new york

New York is an ugly city, a dirty city. Its climate is a scandal, its politics are used to frighten children, its traffic is madness, its competition is murderous. But there is one thing about it -- once you have lived in New York and it has become your home, no place else is good enough. All of everything is concentrated here -- population, theatre, art, writing, publishing, importing, business, murder, mugging, luxury, poverty. It is all of everything. It goes all right. It is tireless and its air is charged with energy.

John Steinbeck, 1953

Steinbeck is a writing hero of mine.

Mass hysteria is a terrible force, yet New Yorkers seem always to escape it by some tiny margin: they sit in stalled subways with claustrophobia, they extricate themselves from panic situations by some lucky wisecrack, they meet confusion and congestion with patience and grit -- a sort of perpetual muddling through. Every facility is inadequate -- the hospitals and schools and playgrounds are overcrowded, the express highways are feverish, the unimproved highways and bridges are bottlenecks; there is not enough air and not enough light, and there is usually either too much heat or too little. But the city makes up for its hazards and its deficiencies by supplying its citizens with massive doses of a supplementary vitamin -- the sense of belonging to something unique, cosmopolitan, mighty and unparalleled.

E. B. White, 1949

They agree and lament, try to find the words to give to anyone who will listen: it's not the way it used to be. Of course it's not. It's not even what it was five minutes ago.

Colson Whitehead, 2003

You think this place sucks the life from you but in fact it is the opposite.

Colson Whitehead

Both the Whitehead quotes are from his collection of essays, The Colossus of New York. This deserves a place on your New York City bookshelf beside E. B. White's Here Is New York and Joseph Mitchell's stories.

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