Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Something to Read, or to Plan on Reading

Working in the book business, you buy (and receive free of charge) loads of books that you’ll have time to read, maybe, sometime in your 70s. The latest I’ve added to the pile is Gone to New York by Ian Frazier, which collects his pieces about the titular city from over the years. I mostly got it for the closing essay, which recently ran in The New Yorker, called "Out of Ohio." It chronicles Frazier’s time in his small Midwestern hometown after college, and how, after several false starts, he finally left the comfort of its routine and moved to New York. The essay’s tone is one I wish I could emulate, and it struck me when I read it as one of the best things to run in the magazine in years. (And I like the magazine, a lot.) Here’s just one good paragraph among many:

When I left the first time to go to college -- the original leaving, which set a pattern for later ones -- my plane to Boston was on a Sunday morning, and I spent all the preceding day and night going around town, seeing friends, saying goodbye, standing and talking under street lights in hushed, excited tones. Early Sunday, I was lying on the floor of a living room with Kent, Bitsy, and Kathy, listening over and over to the song “Leaving on a Jet Plane.” Nobody was saying anything. The girls were quietly crying, not so much about my leaving as about the overwhelmingness of everything: the year was 1969. I cried, and also pretended to cry, myself. From ground level I looked at the nap of the rug and the unswept-up miscellany under the couch. I would never be even a tenth as at home anywhere again.


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