20 July 2012

Imprint Friday: My First New York, from the editors of New York magazine

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.
Beth Fish Reads is proud to showcase Ecco books as a featured imprint on this blog. For more information about Ecco, please read the introductory note from Vice President / Associate Publisher Rachel Bressler, posted here on July 15, 2011. Find your next great read by clicking on Ecco in the scroll-down topics/labels list in my sidebar and by visiting Ecco books on Facebook and following them on Twitter.

My First New York at Powell's
My First New York at Book Depository
These links lead to affiliate programs.

Published by HarperCollins / Ecco, July 24, 2012 (paperback edition)
ISBN-13: 9780061963940


Col (Col Reads) 7/20/12, 7:00 AM  

You have taken care of my Dad's Christmas present! This book sounds perfect for the transplanted New Yorkers on my list.

bermudaonion 7/20/12, 7:41 AM  

I don't remember my first trip to New York but would love to read about other people's first experience there - this book sounds fabulous!

rhapsodyinbooks 7/20/12, 8:05 AM  

This sounds like fun - and makes me want to go back!

Alex 7/20/12, 8:46 AM  

I am a born and raised New Yorker, but I have always wondered what it would be like to see NY for the first time and this sounds like a good book for that.

Julie P. 7/20/12, 9:01 AM  

I would love this book -- how did I miss it?

Barbara 7/20/12, 10:55 AM  

I've never lived in NYC but have lived a short commute away in both CT and NJ so I've spent lots of time there. I remember very well my first visit in the early 1970s. I fell in love with the city and have never gotten over it. This book sounds delightful.

caite 7/20/12, 5:18 PM  

'73..yep, I was going there then. Even before then, taking the PATH train from Newark, taking the subway around.
"city was a dangerous, dirty, and decaying place back then. No one in their right mind would walk through Times Square at night"
yep, it was and yep, my friends and I went to that rather scary Ties Sq. when we were in high school...what were we thinking...lol

Sandy Nawrot 7/21/12, 8:17 AM  

I LOVE the idea of this! Everyone has a story of first seeing NY. My husband loves to tell the story of when he came from communist Poland, the first time he left the country AND the first time he came to the US. He landed in NY and there was a garbage strike. So not only was it the normal dirty, but there was garbage everywhere with RATS. I can't even imagine. My first glimpse of the big apple was much better.

Daryl 7/23/12, 12:54 PM  

oh boy .. I am going to be giving this as a gift to several friends who have some odd ideas about NYC .. thanks!

Jenners 7/23/12, 9:21 PM  

This sounds like a really neat book … and you've gotta love Yogi Berra!

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