Book review: Here is New York by E.B. White

Hardback cover of Here is New York
Hardback cover of Here is New York
Hardback cover of Here is New York

Literary giant E.B. White takes readers on a quick trip to New York they’ll never forget

I took the Kindle version of E.B. White’s essay Here is New York on the treadmill with me this morning and didn’t want to get off because I dreaded coming to the end of 58 pages of observations so keen they border on prescient.

The lively pace of this book mirrors that of the frenetic city itself with long poetic sentences—with multiple clauses—that keep the reader moving on a memorable journey. There are descriptions of the city’s people, neighborhoods and preoccupations.

White explains how New York is broken down into neighborhoods that are so tight and dense that “by shifting your location ten blocks or by reducing your fortune by five dollars you can experience rejuvenation.” Yet, its denizens are still able to achieve privacy and anonymity.

He bemoans some of the same changes that still afflict New Yorkers: “There are fewer newspaper than there used to be…” and “Restaurants are hard to get into…” but concludes that “New Yorkers temperamentally do not crave comfort and convenience—if they did they would live elsewhere.”

Although written in 1948, White astutely identifies the unique qualities that continue to define New York City. And by any logic, this complicated city shouldn’t work. That it does is remarkable.

The New Yorker has called Here is New York “the wittiest essay, and one of the most perceptive, ever done on the city.” Whether you have visited New York or not, spending a half hour reading this book will be both illuminating and enjoyable.

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  1. I worked in Manhattan once-upon-a-time…the book sounds like one I will definitely be reading. Anyone who can put down on paper what New York City truly is, is a genius!! Great review!

  2. This is a find, Irene. What strikes me is White is the author of Stuart Little and Charlotte’s Web! Plus a book on the English language. And it kept you on the treadmill!?

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