31 October, 2016

Here is New York by E.B. White

This is a newish edition of a short book based on a 'Holiday' magazine article the author wrote in 1948. It was republished in 1999 on the 100th anniversary of his birth with an introduction by his stepson.

White came to New York in 1924 where he worked for various magazines including 'New Yorker' & 'Harpers' but at the time of writing this had left and was residing in Maine. In the late 1930's he started writing children's fiction and was famously the author of Stuart Little (1945) and Charlotte's Web (1952).
This stroll around Manhattan in a heatwave has been called the finest portrait ever painted of the city at the height of its glory.

His sketch begins "On any person who desires such queer prizes, New York will bestow the gift of loneliness and the gift of privacy". He describes three types of New Yorkers. Those who were born here, the commuters who come in daily to their place of work and those who were born elsewhere and came here in search of something.
In recalling the passing of the New York he knew in his youth and observing the changes that have occurred since he portrays a wonderful snapshot of post war Manhattan.

In light of the events that took place 53 years later on September 11th, 2001, I found this particular piece portentous and uncanny.
"The city for the first time in its long history, is destructible. A single flight of planes no bigger than a wedge of geese can quickly end this island fantasy, burn the towers, crumble the bridges, turn the underground passages into lethal chambers, cremate the millions. The intimation of mortality is part of New York now: in the sound of jets overhead, in the black headlines of the latest edition.
All dwellers in cities must live with the stubborn fact of annihilation; in New York the fact is somewhat more concentrated because of the concentration of the city itself, and because, of all targets, New York has a certain clear priority. In the mind of whatever perverted dreamer might loose the lightening, New York must hold a steady irresistible charm."

Title: Here is New York
Author: E.B.White

Also available in e-book: Here is New York

Recommended by Claire, Information Services, Central Library.

Claire likes variety & is currently revisiting the Complete Novels of Carson McCullers.

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