Sunday Reading: A Wonderful Town


In 1962, John Updike revealed a Talk of the Town story about Manhattan rising from a spring rainstorm. It’s a superbly written piece that takes us alongside the boulevards and byways of the town as the author makes an attempt to keep away from the downpour—first ducking throughout drenched corridors and shafts close to a aspect avenue, then sheltering within the allée of a bookstore on Fifth Avenue. At sure instances, Updike writes, the gusts from the deluge “had the effect of exquisitely pressing the city down into itself.” The rain, he notes, appears to accentuate the whole lot, emphasizing the sharp angles of the buildings and the vivid seams of the streets because it pours down. His piece completely encapsulates a second when everybody in New York appeared to be holding her breath, ready for a break within the engulfing tempest—in different phrases, ready for the solar.

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This week, we’re bringing you a number of items about Manhattan and the figures and locations that make the town so unforgettable. In “The Old House at Home,” from 1940, Joseph Mitchell profiles McSorley’s Old Ale House, a legendary downtown hang-out populated by a slew of eccentric characters. (“It is a drowsy place; the bartenders never make a needless move, the customers nurse their mugs of ale, and the three clocks on the walls have not been in agreement for many years.”) In “Mozzarella Story,” Calvin Trillin chronicles his appreciation for the culinary gems discovered at a small cheese store in Greenwich Village. In “Sophie’s World,” Rebecca Mead explores the exuberant creativeness of an eight-year-old who resides on the Upper West Side. In “Putting Myself Together,” Jamaica Kincaid recounts the heady days and nights of her early years within the metropolis. (“I did not know then that I had embarked on something called self-invention, the making of a type of person that did not exist in the place where I was born.”) In “A Diamond to Cut New York,” Dawn Powell provides a pointy, witty portrait of the Manhattan literary world throughout the thirties, forties, and fifties. In “Revealing and Obscuring Myself on the Streets of New York,” Hilton Als describes his current transfer to a brand new neighborhood and contemplates his life as a queer, Black author within the metropolis. Finally, in “Moving On, a Love Story,” the essayist and screenwriter Nora Ephron recollects her devotion to the Apthorp, a celebrated uptown Beaux-Arts constructing, and the way she found a way of place. (“All stories about love begin with a certain amount of rationalization. I had never planned to live on the Upper West Side, but after a few weeks I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else, and I began, in my manner, to make a religion out of my neighborhood.”) The storms which have battered our beloved New York for greater than a yr now haven’t but subsided; there may be nonetheless a lot work to do. But, now and again, we catch a glimpse of daylight breaking by means of, parting heathered clouds and permitting us to examine the town lastly settling again into itself as soon as extra.

—Erin Overbey, archive editor


Spring Rain

The buildings there, steeped in humidity, appeared to be a type of print of their very own photos.

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An illustration of the entrance to an apartment building

Moving On, a Love Story

To transfer into the Apthorp was to enter a state of giddy, rent-stabilized delirium.

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Jamaica Kincaid wearing a hat

Putting Myself Together

Somehow, the author, and her favourite hat, survived the heady days and nights of youth.

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An out of focus image of a figure walking down a street

A Diamond to Cut New York

“I am still so amazed at the brazenness of people who only remember you when you’ve gone into your fourth printing.”

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A sketchy, dark illustration of a city saloon

The Old House at Home

McSorley’s, the oldest Irish saloon within the metropolis.

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An aproned figured sitting outside a cheese shop, taking a break

Mozzarella Story

A cheese ritual.

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Child doing a cartwheel on a subway platform

Sophie’s World

She leads the lifetime of a typical Upper West Sider: the back-to-back appointments, the hours within the health club, the social obligations. But then no person stated it was straightforward being eight.

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Illustration of a man in ballet clothes holding an I.D.

Revealing and Obscuring Myself on the Streets of New York

I stroll by means of my neighborhood coping with private stuff, together with studying bodily and mentally defend myself in opposition to those that don’t really feel that my “I” ought to exist in any respect.

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