Goodbye to All That: Writers on Loving and Leaving New York
Edited by Sari Botton
Seal Press  •  $16  •  ISBN 9781580054942
Published October 8, 2013


The love affair between writers and New York City goes way back. Taking its title from a 1967 Joan Didion essay, Goodbye to All That features musings by a stellar list of 28 women writers sharing their own experiences of NYC—discussing the initial allure, eventual disillusionment (for some) and everything in between.

Ann Hood writes about the magnetic pull she felt toward the city from an early age and how when she finally arrived "it felt as if all my cells settled into place . . . and I became exactly who I was supposed to be." Emma Straub writes about growing up in NYC, "my jungle gym and playmate all at once." And Cheryl Strayed shares how she eventually realized that "much as I loved it, I wasn't truly in love."

Reading these brief, intimate essays feels like you're chatting—commiserating, in my case, since I inhabited NYC for six years—with a friend over coffee. Here's an excerpt from Ann Hood's essay, "Manhattan, Always Out of Reach":

My first apartment was at 228 Sullivan Street, in a former convent painted pink, its Caribbean exterior a sharp contrast to all the grimy black around it. The day I moved in, I boldly left my 300-square-foot studio and walked the maze of Greenwich Village. The guy from 47F was going to show up that night, so the entire day stretched out before me without obligation or purpose. I wandered into Three Lives Bookstore to browse, into Café Reggio for a cappuccino, into the Third Street Bazaar and the Grand Union and every tiny store that sold earrings or posters or fruit or magazines. At some point on that journey, it felt as if all my cells settled into place, as if my body had shifted, rearranged itself, and I became exactly who I was supposed to be.

I will never leave here, I thought that June afternoon. That thought repeated itself almost daily as my first summer moved along. It was a very hot summer, relentlessly so. I would go to the Grand Union supermarket on Bleeker Street and stand in the frozen food section to cool off, or I would ride the Staten Island ferry for a nickel round-trip and stand at the front each way to catch a breeze thick with East River stench. On the Fourth of July, I joined the throngs on the closed FDR Drive to watch fireworks. I will never leave here, I thought as the neon colors exploded over the river.

What do you think, readers? Will you be checking out Goodbye to All That? What are you reading this week?

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