Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Book Review: Going Into Town: A Love Letter to New York by Roz Chast

I vividly remember my first trip to New York City as an adult, visiting my friend Mary. I remember her explaining the subway system to me, although I found it pretty intuitive and could quickly get around on my own, using just a tiny credit-card sized map I pilfered from a hotel room. I remember after I moved to New York, figuring out that Q buses go to Queens and M buses go to Manhattan, and figuring out that the street/avenue numbering system in Queens and Brooklyn is 90 degrees turned from Manhattan. When you figure these things out, a very daunting and frightening place like New York, quickly becomes manageable. So long as an address isn't way downtown where the streets have names, I can find it without a map. Ideally, you'd know the cross street, which is something locals know to ask, and which Roz Chast explains to her daughter in this book.

Ms. Chast wrote/drew this book for her daughter when she was preparing to go to college in Manhattan. Roz had grown up in Brooklyn and lived in Manhattan for many years, before moving to the Connecticut suburbs to raise her kids. Going to college is scary no matter where you're going. I went to a tiny town in North Carolina, and I was scared I wouldn't find my way around the campus and wouldn't be able to figure out a class schedule and all sorts of things like that. This book is one you certainly don't have to be a New Yorker to enjoy--most every big city has this moment. In April, I finally figured out the way the Metro in DC works. I'd ridden it at least a half a dozen times previously, and on that trip I nevertheless ended up going the wrong way once, and missing my stop another time, but I have figured it out! It's such a feeling of mastery, and you gain so much confidence with each nugget of knowledge gained about how to navigate our large and confusing world. Ms. Chast's unique illustration style goes perfectly with the frenetic and anxious city that she both loves and yet doesn't want to live in.

I got this book for free from the publisher, my employer, Macmillan.

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