Here Is New York by E. B. White

E. B. White was a longtime writer for The New Yorker, although he is probably better known as the author of Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little. He was also a co-author of that little book we were told to buy in school, The Elements of Style, often referred to as “Strunk and White”. In 1948, White wrote a long essay about New York City for Holiday magazine. Even with an introduction by White’s son-in-law, the writer Roger Angell, it makes for a very short book. Today, a more accurate title for Here Is New York would be That Was Manhattan.

As White points out, Manhattan never stands still, so particular places White describes are no longer there. I didn’t think the writing was as astonishingly good as some have said, but White gets the feeling of Manhattan, even today, exactly right. I won’t offer a summary. I’ll just quote one line: “It is a miracle that New York works at all”.

Speedboat by Renata Adler

Speedboat isn’t really a novel. It’s more like a collection of extremely short short stories, some featuring the narrator — a New York journalist/academic — and her social circle, and some describing random events that represent the modern world, circa 1975. You could say it’s a kaleidoscopic array of vignettes. It’s enjoyable but not very involving. 

Even though it was written some time ago, it’s remarkable how current the book is. There isn’t much missing, except for the Internet and cell phones. (And a plot.)  (4/8/13)