New York frame of mine…
August 27, 2011 § 20 Comments
This list is for Litlove.
Having once mentioned that I love books about New York, that is, that take PLACE in NYC where the city might even be a wee bit of a character itself, Litlove was curious, wondered what I might have on such a list, if one existed.
Here it is.
The list is chaotic and incomplete. It stretches from the extreme of chick lit to that of literary classic.
And I do not love all the books on the list, though I embrace them, for one reason or another.
I FEEL BAD ABOUT MY NECK by Nora Ephron… A true urbanite and also a master of comedic timing, Ephron’s essays are so human, and so huge in scope and so down to the detail as well, you don’t have to be from the megalopolis any of it.
SLAVES OF NEW YORK by Tama Janowicz… I remember the first page and how I reread it because I was not sure what she was really talking about (what? really?…I was young) or where such writing could be going. Part of the 80’s writers brat pack, Tama weaves story through stories. She is iconic to me; I love her for the time she represents and for the writing she put on paper.
BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITY by Jay McInerney… Putting aside the fact that this was written in the second person singular, more or less a “first” in fiction, I love the book because of the story, the character and the time. The 80s in NYC were particular, and this book handles a microscope look at them. OK, and our “hero” is a fact checker at The New Yorker. Instant cred.
EMMA WHO SAVED MY LIFE by Wilton Barnhardt… I read this book in order to review it. It was long. I don’t remember all of it. It is modern in essence, and slightly lonely. It’s not a favorite, but I’m glad i read it, and it’s “New York” after all but you see the angst that has pervaded since coming in this story.
THE AGE OF INNOCENCE by Edith Wharton…Now you don’t want me to on and on about how great this book is. Because it is. No one does character like Wharton. And this one is a winner. It’s always interesting to find that a person who seems made of butterflywing fragility is, in fact, not.
A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN by Betty Smith… If this is too shiny-faced, it’s cuz it’s to be read when you’re in your early teens. It’s a classic for a reason. It always works; it’s always true. Call it a coming-of-age thing.
MARJORIE MORNINGSTAR by Herman Wouk…..classic, maybe a bit banal (it is an older book, after all) but worth it to sense the “fever” that is New York.
CATCHER IN THE RYE by JD Salinger… also classic. So much has been said about Holden, and his creator. I’ll leave it to the deep-rooted critics. (I just might prefer Adrian Mole.)
BREAKFAST AT TIFFANYS by Truman Capote…. and yet another classic. I have trouble separating the book from the movie though they are inherently different.
THE GROUP by Mary McCarthy I don’t know what gets me about this book. It’s dated. It’s terribly well written and the story is maybe timeless in its way, in terms of character and characterization. About a group of college friends and their moving on into the real world. This was also a movie, but don’t go there first….do read the book first. The many faceted Mary McCarthy…
TIME AND AGAIN by Jack Finney If I talk about this one, maybe it’s magic will go away. That’s how I feel about it. It was a gift from my Gran, ages ago. I read it maybe at age 15. I have that copy still. I own the sequel (what’s it called?) and I save it as a treat, certain that it will be as good if not greater than its predecessor.
SOPHIE’S CHOICE by William Styron I couldn’t finish this one. But the writing is beautiful, the first chapters which I waded through, though not innocently since I’d seen the movie, those first chapters are like swimming luxuriously in warm water.
RAGTIME by EL Doctorow This was, for me, the first time a novel put real characters in fictional situations – could you do that? I don’t know why I was so aware of that. Surely thousands of books had done that already. Still, I was fascinated. And delighted to have found Doctorow who I’ve read astutely since.
SKINNY LEGS AND ALL by Tom Robbins Ah, this was such a romp, such a myth, such a cacophony of real and surreal and ridiculousness and I completely enjoyed it. Robbins rocks!
THE ALIENIST by Caleb Carr – a mystery with more Oomph and sometimes more than Raw than I would choose to read BUT it’s well done and different, partly due to its time period. Actually had me kinda nervous; I don’t aldways do suspense and scary really well.
PEOPLE LIKE US by Dominick Dunne I have read all his books. His own story is full of life and death and tragedy and perserverance. His stars on the page are socialites and fools and hard workers, too. Some of his tales get thin as his books kept coming, but if you started with THE OTHER MRS GRENVILLE, it’s worth working your way around to PEOPLE LIKE US.
WINTER’S TALE by Mark Helprin I cannot tell you the plot. I can only tell you that every bit of it held me magically in thrall. The writing is as fresh as the story that is spun. Magic. That’s all I can say about this book.
THE GASLIGHT SERIES by Victoria Thompson Each book is named after a Manhattan neighborhood where a myster (murder) takes place in turn of the century NYC. Sara Brandt is a mid-wife of a blueblood family which drives her parents crazy. Frank Malloy is an Irish cop who is working his way up in the department. They are an unlikely pair yet fate, and crime, manages to throw them together, and the reader is always glad!
THE EMPEROR’S CHILDREN by Claire Messud…. I had to read it; thought it was really going to be something. It wasn’t, quite. Still it’s on the shelf, and I’d hand it to you to read if you were sitting here.
THE FIRST WIVES CLUB by Olivia Goldsmith… chick chick chick lit. This one is luscious nilth, neither good nor bad. It’s entertainment. A trio of women “get revenge” (in the nicest way) on their exes. Some comedy, some truth, some universality – to say more would be giving it too much credit.
THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA – by Laura Weisberger… ok, this one is chick lit to the nth degree. But there’s just enough plot line on which to hang your hat if you can stop snort/laughing at how many times the heroine is dealing with juggling coffee for the people in the office. I love the movie only because I am a nut for fashion and the film has a ton of it, not to mention good old Meryl Streep who breathed life into the so-called Anna Wintour part.
ONE FIFTH AVENUE by Candace Bushnell… Author of the original Sex in the City, her writing skills continue to improve while I hear her personality, in real life, does not.
BERGDORF BLONDS by Plum Sykes… Silliness perosnified BUT I’d read Ms Sykes for several years in VOGUE and rather got a kick out of some of her short pieces. Nothing anyone needs. Neither is this book. But it’s nice to see her try her hand in writing fiction. There is some fiction you read just to get to know the author a little better. Ther’s more to her than shopping for lingerie, I’ll give her that.
STUART LITTLE by EB White… I loved this book. Have owned it since I was 8 years old. Didn’t understand it as a kid, and still see what doesn’t work, what does. I take that back – it all works. And EB is a fabulous writer (moreover, his essays and letters!).
MANHATTAN TRANSFER by John Dos Passos… What happened? I dunno. Again, caught up in the rhythm of the language and the energy, overall, of the book. Give it a whirl – take it for a spin, even if you don’t finish it
WASHINGTON SQUARE by Henry James I cannot commend my fascination with this short novel. Other than it is character-based (such readers will know what I mean by that) and therein, held my interest through to its finish. I will always give James his due though he would likely smirk to hear my accolade.
Yes, there are more, but there are also those why decry overly long blog posts. Therefore, I’ll go make a pot of coffee and ferret out the next fine book.