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The Colossus of New York Paperback – October 12, 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
Whitehead (The Intuitionist; John Henry Days) lays out a wildly creative view of New York City. To out-of-towners, Gotham is about famous places, but Whitehead's New York is not. It's more about a way of seeing. For example, "No matter how long you have been here, you are a New Yorker the first time you say, That used to be Munsey's, or That used to be the Tic Toc Lounge... when what was there before is more real and solid than what is here now." Whitehead begins with the bus ride into Port Authority, complete with impossibly heavy baggage, bathrooms braved by only the desperate and the seating strategies of experienced bus riders. He cuts to city feelings: the morning's garbage truck noises; the problem of rain; coping with rush hour. When he does write of celebrated places-Central Park, Coney Island, the Brooklyn Bridge-it's for the role they play in our ritual life: when we go, how we are when we're there and how it feels to leave. Whitehead is a master of the minutiae of the mundane. He takes you to the moment of a subway train leaving without you: could you have made it if you'd left a few seconds earlier? Should you take a taxi? You check the tunnel for the next train, fusing with thoughts of time as new passengers accumulate on the platform. This 13-part lyric symphony is like E.B. White's Here Is New York set to the beat of Ellington or Cage.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Lovers of adventurous literary fiction relished Whitehead's novels, The Intuitionist (1998) and John Henry Days (2001), recognizing him as an original, sardonic, yet compassionate writer. Anointed with a MacArthur "genius" grant, Whitehead now presents a ravishing cycle of imaginative and evocative prose poems in tribute to his home, New York City, the quintessential metropolis of dreams. Writing in short, emphatic sentences, Whitehead riffs poignantly and playfully on myriad strategies for urban survival as he incisively distills the kaleidoscopic frenzy of the city into startlingly vital metaphors and cartoon-crisp analogies. Intensely sensory in his details, wistful and funny in his psychological disclosures, he makes everything come to mythic life, from the fury of rush hour to the strained etiquette of subway riders to Central Park, Times Square, Coney Island, and the Brooklyn Bridge. The mad choreography a rainstorm puts into motion, the rituals of downtown nightclubs, the horrors of the 9-to-5 routine, the waxing and waning of the self against the backdrop of so many other souls are all given a sharp, metaphysical twist in Whitehead's gorgeous rendering of New York as a colossal, ever-metamorphosing phantasm. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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The free style works MOST of the time. When it doesn't, it really doesn't. (It is no coincidence that the most straight-forward section, the introduction, is the most superb!) THE COLOSSUS OF NEW YORK doesn't have the lyricism of E.B. White's THIS IS NEW YORK, but it doesn't pretend to want to be like it, anyway. Colson Whitehead's piece is more like Whitman's poetry, as he rambled along the old downtown streets and piers, and recorded his scenes and his feelings about them. Yes, this book could have been greater, but it doesn't take away from the power much of it has. So if you're looking for a history of or guidebook to New York City, this is not the book. But if you're looking for the evocative power of New York, written in a personal, lyrical style, you won't find many better than THE COLOSSUS OF NEW YORK.