Saturday, September 24, 2011


Greater New York is in some ways like a house. Manhattan is the living room, with the TV and the stereo and the good furniture, where guests are entertained. Brooklyn and Queens are the bedrooms where the family sleeps, and the Bronx is the attic, full of inflammable crap that nobody has any use for. Staten Island is the backyard, and Long Island is the detached garage, so filled up with paint cans, workbenches, and motorboat that you can’t get the car in it anymore. Hudson County over in New Jersey is the basement, with the furnace and the freezer and the stacks of old newspapers, and the Jersey swamps are the toilet. Westchester is the den with paneling and a fake kerosene lamp, and Connecticut is the guest room, with starched curtains and landscape prints. The kitchen is way up in Albany, which means the food is always cold by the time it gets to the table, and the formal dining room was torn down by William Zeckendorf and friends back in the early fifties. —Donald Westlake, Dancing Aztecs (quoted by Sarah Weinman)


The morning sun picks out an apartment house, a cigar store, streams through the dusty windows of a loft. The racket swells with the light. These shoes are killing me, she said, taking the cover off the typewriter. Main Central is up to forty-six. Did you read about the earthquake?

Looms, shears, jackhammers, trolley cars, voices, add to the din. And in the quieter streets the hawker with the pushcart moves slowly by. Badabadabada O Gee! Hawkers of vegetables, plants, fruit. Badabadabada
O Gee!

In half a million rooming-house rooms the call penetrates ill-fitting windows. The boy who came to be a writer is waked in his mid-town room and dresses for his shift on the elevator. In Chelsea the girl who came to be an actress launders her stockings. The boy who was going to Wall Street sprawls on his bed, wincing as each cry cuts into his dream of the smell of fresh hay and warm milk. A deep blast rises, drowning the sound of hawkers, children, automobiles. The Conte di Savoia steams up the river; wine from Capri, olive oil from Spain, figs and dates from North Africa.

Shouting screaming kids fill the streets, playing baseball, football, hopscotch, jump-rope, dodging swift-moving trucks and taxis. Down Fifth Avenue marches a May Day parade sixty thousand strong. Solidarity forever, solidarity forever, the portentous tramp, tramp of regimented feet; slogans called, banners flying. Up lower Broadway an open car moves slowly through the yelling throng and on its pulled-back hood, laughing, waving into the snowstorm that flutters thickly downward from high-up windows, sits a returned aviator, explorer, movie actor, champion chess player, the first man to walk the length of Manhattan backwards. —from John Cheever's introduction to the 1939 New York City Guide (quoted by Jason Boog)

Yet [New York] was much more than a glittering modern city for Lovecraft. It was that in the early months of his stay, but it soon came to be seen as a darker, older, and far more protean city—at least on his many walks in the dead of night. As he threaded his way through a maze of tenuous and delicate mental impressions, in the night shadows and dawn glimmerings of New York City he found a new dream-city that could function simultaneously as an inspirational fever-dream, as a text, as an antiquarian reliquary, as a sort of psychic comforter to aid him in his battle against the mundane and horrifyingly noisy reality of daylight hours. —David Haden, Walking With Cthulhu: H.P. Lovecraft as Psychogeographer (New York: 1924–26)

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