Clear-eyed, agenda-free journalism, grounded in old-fashioned street reporting
As Joseph Mitchell captured life on the margins of midcentury New York, Orhan Pamuk the melancholia of 20th century Istanbul, and Martha Gellhorn civilian suffering in Civil War Spain, Lida masterfully details the plight of a struggling and repressed city.
... Youll want to read "First Stop in the New World" for the unvarnished off- the-grid tour Lida provides; for the singers and hustlers and artists you'll meet; and for the insight you'll develop into an ancient, booming but seriously ailing metropolis.
Mary DAmbrosio, San Francisco Chronicle
Streetwise and up-to-date
a charmingly idiosyncratic, yet remarkably comprehensive portrait of one of the planet's most misinterpreted urban spaces.
Reed Johnson, Los Angeles Times
A bumper crop of travelogues and anthologies about Mexico have been appeared in the last few years. David Lidas low-life tour of Mexico City, its sex clubs as well as its food stalls, not only belongs on this list, it shoots to the top.
To test the quality of a travel book, it helps to ask: Would you like to share a meal or a drink with the writer? On the evidence of his book, which reveals him to be an expansive soul with big eyes and an even bigger heart, Mr. Lida should expect calls from a lot of newly arrived strangers, including me.
Richard B. Woodward, The New York Times
A fast-paced account of daily life in a city that defies description
Lida finds far more to marvel over and enjoy than to fret about.
Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg, Wall Street Journal
Mexico City is a sprawling, throbbing stew of 20 million people, but David Lida, in his new book, cuts through the chaos with an array of verbal snapshots that aim to paint the city's soul.
A hip-smart tour through a baroque society
probing and witty.
Jason Berry, New Orleans Times Picayune
A terrifically entertaining guide, displaying both intimate familiarity with the city and an outsider's eye for its quirks and weirdness.
Fritz Lanham, Houston Chronicle
A gritty, nostalgic ode to the city
a fundamentally human collection of stories and reflections, a reminder that any city is about its people, their constant clash and coexistence.
Theresa Bradley, Associated Press
Lida offers a thought-provoking account of current-day Mexico City by letting its citizens, known as chilangos, tell their own stories of everyday struggles and triumphs.
Vincent Bosquez, San Antonio Express News
A wonderful trip through Mexico City, from its last cabaret to puerco profundo
tacos to Ooorale!
, a magazine that makes Star look downright prudish.
New York Magazine
A unique and penetrating analysis of contemporary Mexico City
cleverly organized in enigmatically titled vignettes that delve headlong into Mexico Citys improbable mysteries
a book as audacious as the strategies for survival and advancement adopted by the everyday folk who live there.
Victor Lugo, Hispanic Magazine
A series of deftly written vignettes about city life
Lida's affection for the much-maligned metropolis shines through in chapter after chapter
a welcome respite from the usual depictions of Mexico City as a menacing hellhole of corruption and violent crime.
thought-provoking and educational but also a satisfying read.
David Lida shows us a Mexico City thats not in the guidebooks, but, like a subversive code-breaker, he has pointed out the pathways to its delectably seamy soul. If Burroughs were alive and planning a return visit to Mexico today, hed want to take this book with him.
Jon Lee Anderson author of Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life
and The Fall of Baghdad
The city of Mexico, for any outsider, is fascinating, complex, exciting and strange. It is as though a loud and sexy party were going on in the room next door. This book offers an essential key to that room. From now on, anyone who goes to Mexico City without David Lidas book is mad.
Colm Toíbín, author of The Master
and Mothers and Sons
Charmingly unaffected, forthright and widely knowledgeable walk through the highs and low of this teeming, complicated, immensely rewarding hypermetropolis.
Mexico City operates in a constant state of combustible reinvention, writes longtime resident Lida (Travel Advisory: Stories of Mexico
, 2000). Half its population of 20 million lives in poverty. They grapple with severe traffic, as well as service, transportation and crime problems. The government is in limbo and resistant to urban planning. But the Distrito Federal
has also become the dynamic, spontaneous, cultural capital of Latin America. With the peso stabilized during the last decade, its economy increasingly attracts a global population. As a result, the author argues persuasively, it will be a significant center of 21st-century life. Since transplanting himself from New York in 1990, Lida has gained an excellent sense of how Mexico City functions, or doesnt. He profiles its various neighborhoods, from Santa Fe to Condesa, its street markets and food stalls, festive cantinas and desperate pulquerías
. He examines the inhabitants mania for wrestling matches and saint worship, their distinctive vernacular and the cultures deeply ingrained machismo. Lida observes and listens to the chilangos
, an insulting term for city residents proudly appropriated by the younger generation. He captures the voices of the earnest drunks he met in cantinas; the mature fichera
who shared stories of her work as a bar companion for men; the 22-year-old accounting student from Ocho Barrios chosen to play Jesus in the Holy Week Passion; a glue-sniffing homeless waif from the army of 3,000 street children; and radio host Anabel Ochoa as she dispensed sex advice to her spectacularly repressed listeners. Imagine a scene painted by George Grosz, peopled by figures with brown skin, the author writes in an affecting, generous depiction of the wide range of humanity that comprises the city.
Lida depicts his adopted hometown with warmth, humor, wisdom and fortitude.
David Lida's absorbing book shows us Mexico City in all its many guisesand there are guaranteed to be several dozen more of those than even well-informed readers are likely to know. Lida's eye for detail is impeccable, his writing is crisp and engaging, and he serves as the perfect informant, since he is somehow both an insider and an outsider.
Luc Sante, author of Low Life
and Kill All Your Darlings
I may love Mexico City more than I love David Lida's First Stop in the New World
, but it's close. From the wealth of art in Phil Kelly, to the art of wealth in Carlos Slim, from the tianguis to Teotihuacan, Condesa to Tepito, here is the whole storyall kinds of stories big and small, high and low, told with brains and charm, insight and factof la capital as it is lived in today.
Dagoberto Gilb, author of Gritos
You might think that a megalopolis of 20 million people wouldnt lend itself to an intimate portrait. But David Lida has given us one, a weaving of memoir and reportage that is at turns funny and haunting, a personal journey into the crazy geography and tortured psychology of a place called Mexico City. First Stop in the New World
captures that most elusive part of Mexico City: its soul.
Héctor Tobar, author of Translation Nation
and Mexico City Bureau Chief for the Los Angeles Times
David Lida has written what will surely stand for years as the definitive Mexico City book. Keen, clear-eyed, street-smart and culture-savvy, filled with eye-popping detail and probing insights, First Stop in the New World
manages to do the seemingly impossible: deliver one of the most vexing, stimulating, dynamic and misunderstood capitals on earth into the realm of the comprehensible. It is impossible to imagine a better book about the city, a better writer to deliver it.
Tony Cohan, author of On Mexican Time
and Mexican Days
Nobody knows and understands contemporary Mexico City better than David Lida does. Nobody writes about it with a more passionate devotion and insight, or portrays its myriad inhabitants with such sympathy and humor. One of the world's greatest and most misunderstood cities has found its great translator and chronicler.
Francisco Goldman, author of The Art of Political Murder