Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Going into Town: A Love Letter to New York

Going into Town: A Love Letter to New York
By Roz Chast
Bloomsbury, 2017. 176 pgs. Graphic Novel

Cartoonist Roz Chast takes a break from designing front page comic spreads of The New Yorker to create this guide to the city that stole her heart. A short but absolutely delightful read, Chast's book is divided into sections like "The Subway," "Food," and "Stuff to Do" to help readers get a feel for New York City as she sees it. As a guide, it is wildly informative and full of great advice; as a cartoon, it's hilarious and will make you laugh (if you're endowed with a good sense of humor of course).

I've loved Roz Chast for a long time--I've cited her in academic papers and read Theories of Everything dozens of times. Her cartoons are typically quirky observations of mundane everyday life: what silly thing the lady on the bus might be daydreaming about, which human objects are "proof of life on Earth," and what nature's budget might be for each season. Chast always feels like a friend who's not so much letting you in on an inside joke as creating one with you. But something about Going into Town feels even more personal and personable. Perhaps it's that it started out as a booklet for her daughter who was moving to the Big Apple for university. Perhaps it's that you can sense a real sincerity behind the words, a real love and optimism that sees the flaws and idiosyncrasies of her favorite city, and forgives and loves it all the more.

I'm moving to New York this week, and I'm both thrilled and terrified. I'm a creature of routine and I love having my things in place: my piano in the kitchen corner, my separate closets for shirts and dresses, my cats watching doves out the window or purring on my lap as I read from the stack of books on my nightstand, my friends a few streets and a text away. I am giving all these things up, and what scares me the most is the last one, being alone in the busiest city in America. But Chast's New York City is a friend itself, an enigmatic, volatile, fantastic figure that I can't wait to get to know over time. Seeing it through her eyes, in illustrated format and themed "chapters" make my upcoming move there feel less scary, more fun, and more full of discovery and possibility.


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