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Standing Still in a Concrete Jungle Paperback – October 18, 2012
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"Standing Still in a Concrete Jungle was one of those "can't put down" kind of books, where once you start reading it, you get engrossed, wondering what's next...Nobel is an eloquent, descriptive writer. He describes NYC's subway as "an aluminum worm wiggling through the bedrock, coursing beneath the concrete, boggled by its purring charge of humanity." One senses he has the heart and soul of a poet..." - Mark In The City
Justin Nobel's autobiographical psycho-geography of New York is at turns disciplined and whimsical, insightful and playful...Stumbling upon everyday juxtapositions of the mystical and the mundane, deep history and fleeting energies. Nobel's writing is lucid and fresh, a sort of alchemy of sustained attention and free-association speculation...The careful reader will notice something else going on: a kind of sincerity and humility that resonates with the works of canonized American authors such as Henry David Thoreau and Willa Cather. - New Orleans Review
From the Back Cover
"New York is a buckling locomotive, a weeping magician, the world's most glamorous crematorium..."
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April Lane Benson, Ph.D.
In Nobel's first dispatch, a night on the 1 train, he sees a rangy kid with a "face like gypsum" scrawling surreptitiously on a seat. When the kid gets off Nobel looks at what he's left behind. It's a message in sharpie pen: the names "JFK, 2 Pac, Biggie, John Lennon, Gandhi, Malcolm X." It finishes with a seventh name: "YOU." In a Brooklyn coffee shop where Nobel spends an afternoon, he sees a towheaded kid who looks "eerily similar to how I did at his age." Nobel exits the cafe later in the day, and sees the kid again, as if the doppelgängers were following one another across time. Zooming up and down in a Chelsea elevator full of fashionistas, Nobel looks at the image of a Mexico City museum and suddenly he imagines that he's "up, up, forever up, zooming up, to a vast honeycombed orb, the mother ship, where await the alien surgeons." In the wee hours on the Sheepshead Bay beach, Nobel spots a shiny-headed man walking with a Doberman. The man disappears into the mist before Nobel can reach him. Later, in the rain, on Wall Street, a shiny-headed man reappears. He has "no umbrella though [is] somehow dry" and looks out on the world through two glass eyes. Nobel discovers a message in a Coca-Cola bottle buried in the dunes. The message is so hideous and depraved that I will mention it no further.
The genius of this book is that it works simultaneously as a master class in reportage and a fantastical prose poem. A writer should not be able to do both at once, but Nobel has. His ear for dialogue is so true, his reporting so courageous and charismatic (he appears on a drug corner and is immediately taken in like a brother by the dealers) that by the time his observations morph into arias of the uncanny, we've already come to trust him absolutely. I don't know another book that attempts anything like this. I know of very few authors who could even conceive of anything this audacious.