I wish I had a good “what to read” list for every city I visit. While looking for the Fodor’s guide to New York City at the library before our trip this past weekend, I stumbled upon Here is New York by E.B. White. I checked out both, along with an archaeology book and Stephen Sondheim’s songbook for Company.
While Sondheim and archaeology are cool, I found a true gem of a read in White’s book (which is really a long essay) about life and culture in NYC. He wrote it in 1949, but his sociological observations are as timeless as they are poetic. It is delightful to read about how he overhears a conversation at a restaurant between a young man and a woman where the man is stating his case for why he feels they are a good fit for one another.
And in an erie and ominous way, White reflects on the dangers of New York, including that of the possibility of planes flying into buildings and destroying them, and in turn destroying New York (remember, he wrote this in 1949). He turned out to be right about the planes, but he was wrong in ever thinking that such an event could take down the whole city, for New Yorkers are strong, and have overcome all odds when everything seems stacked against them. He even admits that New York should have caved in on itself decades ago, but it still presses on, and that is one of the fascinating elements of this grand city.
If you ever visit NYC, allow me recommend this quick read that will cause you to better appreciate the city and the wonderful people of New York.