I @?#$!askflkaldj! NY
Over the past year or so I have been reading a lot of memoir-ish essay collections written by women in their twentywhatevers and here is what I have to say about that: I am so tired of New York City.
I am so tired of New York City as a default setting. I am so tired of New York City as the psychological home turf. I am so tired of New York City as an aesthetic choice. I am so tired of the assumption of New York City’s fundamental interestingness. At this point it is actually the most boring thing in the world to me. Oh, you’re a writer? In your 20s? Living in New York? Writing about being a writer and being in your 20s and living in New York? Tell me more! Wait no, do not tell me more, because that is almost literally all I am ever ever told about.
It’s not that I haven’t enjoyed some of these books. I mostly really enjoy them! I am so into ladies being into their own subjectivities. I am into ladies writing brutally and affably and beautifully about their own lives.
But I resent how the city sneaks into even places I wasn’t expecting. At this point I should know it’s almost as essential as commas and semicolons but somehow it still surprises me. Two examples from my weekend reading: All I’d heard about Chloe Caldwell’s Legs Get Led Astray was about the orgies and the babysitting and the frank, frank funniness, but there was New York, right there in chapter two. I pick up Eula Biss’s Notes from No Man’s Land, a very very different sort of book, and there it is; that first piece, which is beautiful and deeply smart and elegantly done, a few pages in, suddenly draws into focus in on her life in her 20s in New York City, and I begin to wonder, what in God’s name have I done?
What I have done is more what I have not done, and what I have not done is move to New York City. I have never even more than halfway considered it through one squinted eye for more than two minutes. I have been to New York City one time, in eleventh grade, on a class trip, five months after 9/11, ten years ago last spring. I occasionally think about visiting again. Probably I will. I’m in no real rush.
At any rate it has played only the slightest of walk-on roles in the grand scheme of my life, and has hardly ever poked itself into my writing.
And yet I know so much about the city, know neighborhoods and their general whereabouts and characters, know of bars and restaurants and subway stops and bookstores. Part of this is because of the way New York exists in pop culture at large. But its presence, its omnipresence, in Woody Allen movies, in reality shows, in whatever else, doesn’t bother me quite like this. I know all these things without trying. I know these things without reading guidebooks or articles or maps. I know them like someone might know the names of places and things in Middle Earth or Narnia—just from reading, just from repeated prolonged exposure to that world. I know that I know these things because of these books.
Some people I do think read certain kinds of books because to them New York City is a Middle Earth or a Narnia—a place they want to absorb and come to know like it is a real place—only it is a real place, and then they go there, and then they do all the things they’re supposed to do, then they have their own “Goodbye To All That” moment. And then they write about it, too. And there’s that sense, always, that whatever happened to them in New York City couldn’t have happened anywhere else and yet the very fact of it having happening there somehow renders those happenings universal.
I am not saying no one should live in New York or no one should write about living in New York—obviously! And of course there are varying degrees of how well it is done. Even within the same book. But what I do wonder is—these people, these women and also these men, though the women who do this are more of what I am referring to generally here… Is there not ever some moment of gut-thumping shame when they realize how often this has been done before? Is part of being a woman who Has A New York Story some kind of mind-erasing confidence that obscures all other New York Stories that have come before?
Or am I just projecting? Is there some element of jealousy here, a suspicion perhaps that I would be a few steps closer to a book of my own if only I lived in New York City? Of course, yes, probably so.
Certain female writers I know, we talk and think a lot about how the default position is male (straight, white male, of course). Esquire and GQ are considered general interest magazines; men writers are not called men writers, they are writers, while women writers are women writers almost always; male writers do not have to answer to their maleness because it is considered a basic state of being, while femaleness is the variation, the deviation. This is similar to how I’ve come to see New York City writers versus all other kinds of writers, at least when it comes to writers of the personal-essayish sort, but more generally too. New York is the default, is male; everyone else—but, I want to say, especially the South—is the exception, is the other that has to form to the standards set by the default, despite those standards inherently priviledging against it.
And, at least in my own brain, I find similar patterns emerging in how I give myself permission to write and think about writing (because, if it wasn’t abundantly clear already, I have been thinking about this kind of stuff a lot because I am in the midst of the very weird slow hard process of wanting to, of trying to, write a book of my own). I know of female writers who see other female writers doing something similar to what they want to do but rather than feel empowered or challenged by that they see it as an affront, as a slot being filled—because sometimes it is a slot filled, sometimes a female writer getting to do a certain thing means that is one less chance you actually have. But mostly that’s not what it means. And of course this isn’t the dominant way of thinking for men. And I also don’t think it’s the dominant way of thinking for New York City writers. (I should say that I don’t think all New York-based writers are New York City writers, just a certain kind.) But anything so much as vaguely resembling a Southern twentysomething female memoir-ish/critical essayist I’ve found has disappointed me, in a way—scared me, maybe—because it’s felt like, well, she did it, so maybe that’s my lost chance. Which is ridiculous. Because of course it doesn’t work that way. But also, I feel like perhaps it does work that way.
I just know there is so so much life elsewhere. I guess I just wish that all that other life could sell books, too.
94 Notes/ Hide
- dtownsteez likes this
- 40blueextra likes this
- marieyall reblogged this from alyssadehayes and added:
- alyssadehayes reblogged this from rachael-maddux
- sparrowlight likes this
- orallymupright reblogged this from rachael-maddux
- ghostoutfit likes this
- kitchenoddity likes this
- mssnglnk likes this
- graymountaingirl reblogged this from rachael-maddux
- restinvermont reblogged this from rachael-maddux and added:
- restinvermont likes this
- lainevierge reblogged this from rachael-maddux and added:
- maura likes this
- belush likes this
- elisabethdonnelly likes this
- curlyhairedperson likes this
- ensignhoney likes this
- artfortheinternet likes this
- wrestlingentropy likes this
- deep-land likes this
- middlenamemyers reblogged this from rachael-maddux and added:
- fairtradegothic likes this
- markrichardson likes this
- milasca likes this
- darknessontheedgeofboystown likes this
- mlee525 likes this
- lbourgon likes this
- gingercarden likes this
- fabulousmel reblogged this from rachael-maddux
- fabulousmel likes this
- jonathanbogart likes this
- perpetua likes this
- poptimism likes this
- rnbblog likes this
- ammirato likes this
- hungryghoast likes this
- natlbag likes this
- taxidermychurch likes this
- swyzleh likes this
- frontofbook likes this
- aynbandz reblogged this from timetoteleport and added:
- olgamariarodriguezfarinas reblogged this from rawkblog
- j----me likes this
- openapplev likes this
- fuckmaniknowbuthey likes this
- arisaysmore reblogged this from rachael-maddux and added:
- isnteverything likes this
- softcommunication likes this
- sarzha likes this