Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Quote of the Day (Zadie Smith, on Manhattan)

“When I land at JFK, everything changes. For the first few days it is a shock: I have to get used to old New York ladies beside themselves with fury that I have stopped their smooth elevator journey and got in with some children. I have to remember not to pause while walking in the street—or during any fluid-moving city interaction—unless I want to utterly exasperate the person behind me. Each man and woman in this town is in pursuit of his or her beach and God help you if you get in their way. I suppose it should follow that I am happier in pragmatic England than idealist Manhattan, but I can’t honestly say that this is so. You don’t come to live here unless the delusion of a reality shaped around your own desires isn’t a strong aspect of your personality. ‘A reality shaped around your own desires’—there is something sociopathic in that ambition.”—British novelist-essayist Zadie Smith, “Find Your Beach,” in Feel Free: Essays (2018)

I took the photo accompanying this post in Times Square in September 2011—what feels like a century ago now. (In a change from the prior 30-plus years, when I commuted into the city Monday through Friday, I have only ventured into New York twice since the start of the pandemic.) How the city of striving that Smith celebrates will survive an economy increasingly geared towards a remote or hybrid workforce remains to be seen.

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