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Tuesday, 28 February 2012

New York Diaries

The concept is so good I can't believe it hasn't been done before. One book. One city. 400 years. Hundreds of diarists. Excerpted and organized in a calendar format, over the 366 days a year can have. New York Diaries is Teresa Carpenter's unconventional portrait of a city. The Pulitzer Prize winning journalist combed through the diaries of visitors to and residents of New York City from 1609 to 2009, including some famous (Washington, Whitman, Warhol...) and some not. Carpenter handpicked entries that resonated with her and put them together, not chronologically but from January 1st through December 31st, so entries years, decades, even centuries apart to the day are juxtaposed, like on February 7th which shares entries from 1840 by George Templeton Strong, a well-to-do lawyer and hobbyist chronicler of the American Civil War; from 1906 by cartoonist and illustrator John Sloane; 1950 by Kurt Weill, the German/Jewish composer of The Threepenny Opera; and 1955 by American man of letters Norman Mailer.

I have decided to approach the book as one of my podcasters (I can't remember which one, someone on either the Slate Culture Gabfest or the NYTimes or NPR Book Review; all those great voices have blended into one cultural harmony...) recommended, which is to take in the book over the course of a year, reading only the entries of the day. This brings me to February 28th and page 77 of 427 and means I don't have too many highlights to share with you. The New York Times review of the book pulls out lots of goodies though. I suggest curious minds go read that.

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