The Loveliest Love Letter to New York
“This is the best place in the world, an experiment, a melting pot, a fight to the death, an opera, a musical comedy, a tragedy, none of the above, all of the above. We’re a target for seekers and dreamers and also nuts. We live here anyway.”
Roz Chast declares in the beginning of her charming book Going Into Town: A Love Letter to New York that it is neither a “definitive guide book” to Manhattan nor an “insider guide” to the “hippest clubs, the swankiest restaurants, the edgiest neighborhoods, the coolest gyms, or the store where the best people buy the most exclusive books.”
Thank god she is right. Because the book is so much more than any guidebook or vapid top 10 lists we see today. In this witty and quirky graphic memoir of her beloved hometown, New Yorker cartoonist (and, frankly, an American treasure) Roz Chast employs her signature shaggy drawing style to show us all the wonderful, weird, charming, and gross things New York has to offer.
LOL “gluten-free pho”
The book actually evolved from a personal guidebook to the city for Chast’s suburban daughter—who was heading to New York for college—in the hopes that her daughter would fall in love with the city, too. Chast’s New York is full of wonder and goofiness, featuring sidewalk craters and gum, mystery stores selling boxes of saltines next to cartons of hair spray, talking siamese standpipes, and tips on how to hail a cab (yes, she knows some people prefer Uber/Lyft, but Chast likes the instant gratification of the yellow cab: “You need a cab, you hail a cab, you’re in a cab.”).
There are so many laugh-out-loud moments in this book. For example, Chast warns us to stay away from an empty train car when all the other ones are crowded:
Also, we have “wonders of nature” beyond the city’s parks:
Chast gives some great tips on navigating the city streets, too. She tells her readers not to neglect buses, which is my second favorite mode of transportation in the city (after walking, of course). I fully agree with her that buses are awesome for seeing the people, stores, and architecture when you’re not in a rush. It also offers a great way to familiarize yourself with the city if you’re new.
Knowing the cross street of where you’re going is important, but you don’t need to lose too many brain cells over it:
Embedded in the pages of this book, underneath the colorful and whimsical drawings full of hilarious and poignant moments, is Chast’s deep affection for New York. If you currently live in New York but are a little tired of it, this book will remind you why you fell in love with it in the first place. Those of you who have left, I bet Going Into Town will trigger your nostalgia and make you smile at least a little bit. Or maybe it’ll make you glad that you left? I don’t know. Lastly, for those New Yorker wannabes or faraway admirers, I can think of no better introduction to my incredible city.