Citizen Reading: 12 September 2016
Friday Book Lists: 16 September 2016

New York, New York.

So I missed a Helene Hanff book!

I think I had been saving Apple of My Eye, a travel guide/love letter to the city of New York, for a treat, and then just kind of forgot about it. Until this summer, when I had a Hanff mini-revival, re-reading all her books and getting Apple of My Eye. What's great about this guide to NYC is that it was written in 1978--how's that for a mind-blower? When the city was broke and seedy and down on its luck. Spoiler alert: Helene still loved her city.

But here's the weird part. Here's what I was reading one night:

"One thing about the World Trade Center: you don't need a map to find it. With our eyes on the severe twin towers jutting skyward, we steered a zigzag course through winding streets until we came to an intersection seething with traffic, across the street from it. As we waited for a green light, we looked across the street and saw, in front of the Trade Center and blocking the entrance to it, cement mixers, mounds of earth, piles of wooden boards and the rest of the construction mess out of which the Center's landscaped plaza will have emerged by the time you read this.

'You know the problem with this book?' I said to Patsy [a friend of Helene's, with whom she was exploring the city to do the research for this book]. 'I want to write about the Trade Center Plaza and I can't because it isn't there yet. I want to write about Radio City Music Hall and I'm not sure it'll still be there when the book comes out. No other city on earth has such a mania for tearing down the old to build the new--which I approve of. My theory is that since New Yorkers mostly come here from somewhere else, they have no interest in the city's past; they come with big plans for its future. And on a narrow strip of island, you can't build the future without tearing down the past first; there isn't room for both. But it's a headache when you're writing a book about it." (pp. 52-53.)

And then, as she and her friend looked out from the 107th-floor observatory, there's this:

"And suddenly, irrationally, I gloried in the highhanded, high-flying, damn-your-eyes audacity that had sent the Trade Center's twin columns rising impudently above the skyline at the moment when New York was declared to be dying, and so deep in debt it couldn't afford workers to dispose of the Center's trash, police its plaza or put out its fires." (pp. 55-56.)

So I paused and thought about that, and then I thought about the date. What are the odds that I would be reading exactly that chapter of this book at 11 p.m. on September 10? WEIRD.