Welcome to Imprint Friday and today's featured imprint: Ecco books. Stop by each week to be introduced to a must-read title from one of my favorite imprints. I know you'll be adding many of these books to your wish list.
Do you remember the first time you saw New York City? The cultural and political scene, your reason for being there, your age, and your financial situation all affected your reaction to the city and your comfort level. The personal essays collected in My First New York, out in paperback this month, were written by 56 well-know individuals who share their first impressions of the city.
Here's the publisher's summary:
From some of the most remarkable people who have called the city home, come fifty-six candid accounts of long nights out and wild nights in, of first dates and lost loves, of memorable meals and miserable jobs, of slow walks up Broadway and fast subway rides downtown. From a mix of actors, artists, comedians, entrepreneurs, politicians, sports stars, writers, and more, these moving and memorable stories combine to form an impressionistic history of New York since the Great Depression, an accidental encyclopedia of New York hotspots through the ages, and a testament to a larger revelation, one that new arrivals of all stripes and eras have experienced again and again: what the songwriter Rufus Wainwright calls "having cracked the code of living life to the fullest."My first visit to New York was in June 1973. I took a train in from New Jersey with a college friend to spend the day in Manhattan. The city was a dangerous, dirty, and decaying place back then. No one in their right mind would walk through Times Square at night . . . unless they were looking for drugs or a hooker. My how things have changed (see the photo taken last spring at about 10:00 pm on a Friday night; click to enlarge).
But my initial visit was nothing compared to the stories you'll find in My First New York. For example, Ira Glass moved to New York in 1984 and never did learn to feel comfortable walking (or, more often, running) past the drug dealers and prostitutes on his way to and from the subway station. The first day David Rakoff was in the city, his mother was robbed, giving him a rude awakening to the very real dangers of New York City in the early 1980s.
Other people had it easier. Liz Smith arrived in New York after the war and writes about seeing Broadway plays for only $2.50 a ticket. Mike Myers moved to the city in 1988 with a job interview already in hand. In 1962, Nora Ephron was hired by Newsweek almost immediately, although she was placed in the mail room. And for Judy Collins, life in the Village in 1963 was filled with art and music.
I recognized many of the names in My First New York: Dan Rather, Lauren Hutton, and Amy Sedaris, for example. But other people were completely new to me. Famous or not, each author in the book reveals a slice of New York history and presents the city in a unique light. For some, luck was surely on their side; for others, it's a wonder they lasted a week.
Whether they stepped onto the streets of New York during the Summer of Sam or just a couple of years ago, the "actors, artists, athletes, chefs, comedians, filmmakers, . . . writers, and others" who contributed to the book still have vivid memories of their first days in the big city. The fascinating personal stories in My First New York show the city at its best and worst, safest and scariest over the course of about 75 years.
I'll leave you with one of my favorite essays (in its entirety). From Yogi Berra (baseball player), who arrived in 1946:
New York? It was big.