Perceptive, funny, and nostalgic, E.B. White's stroll around Manhattan remains the quintessential love letter to the city, written by one of America's foremost literary figures. The New York Times has named Here is New York one of the ten best books ever written about the metropolis, and The New Yorker calls it "the wittiest essay, and one of the most perceptive, ever done on the city.
….Mass hysteria is a terrible force, yet New Yorkers seems always to escape it by some tiny margin: they sit in stalled subways without 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 deficiencies by supplying its citizens with massive doses of a supplementary vitamin—the sense of belonging to something unique, cosmopolitan, mighty and unparalleled.Manhattan has been compelled to expand skyward because of the absence of any other direction in which to grow. This, more than any other thing, is responsible for its physical majesty. It is to the nation what the white church spire is to the village—the visible symbol of aspiration and faith, the white plume saying that the way is up. The summer traveler swings in over Hell Gate Bridge and from the window of his sleeping car as it glides above the pigeon lofts and back yards of Queens looks southwest to where the morning light first strikes the steel peaks of midtown, and he sees its upward thrust unmistakable: the great walls and towers rising, the smoke rising, the heat not yet rising, the hopes and ferments of so many awakening millions rising—this vigorous spear that presses heaven hard. New York is nothing like Paris; it is nothing like London; and it is not Spokane multiplied by sixty, or Detroit multiplied by four. It is by all odds the loftiest of cities…
Excerpted from Here is New York by E.B. White. Copyright © 2000 by E.B. White. Excerpted by permission of Little Bookroom, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
"Just to dip into this miraculous essay—to experience the wonderful lightness and momentum of its prose, its supremely casual air and surprisingly tight knit—is to find oneself going ahead and rereading it all.White’s homage feels as fresh as fifty years ago." —John Updike
“New York was the most exciting, most civilized, most congenial city in the world when this book was written. It’s the finest portrait ever painted of the city at the height of its glory.”—Russell Baker
“The wittiest essay, and one of the most perceptive, ever done on the city.”—The New Yorker
“Part reverie, part lament and part exultation, the essay has long been recommended by Manhattanophiles as the best sketch ever drawn of the place. But since September 11, 2002, several sentences near the end—sentences 55 years old—resound with a prescience so eerie they bear repeating. 'The city, for the first time in its long history, is destructible,' White writes. '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.'”—The Los Angeles Times
“… a masterpiece of travel writing. This edition contains an introduction by White's stepson, Roger Angell, himself a longtime New Yorker writer and the author of a number of best-selling books about baseball. After Sept. 11, readers will find this book touching, and prescient, in striking ways. Consider this paragraph: '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 lightning, New York must hold a steady, irresistible charm.' The charm isn't just the city. It is also the utterly perfect prose of E.B. White.”—Lousiville Courier-Journal
“White epitomized the lucid and penetrating essayistic voice so treasured at the New Yorker, an impeccable style employed to powerful effect in this exquisitely precise contemplation of the New York City of his youth, and, by extrapolation, of humankind at large. Written in 1948, this witty and perceptive praise song to New York is a classic.”
—Booklist, February 1, 2004