Going Into Town
Bloomsbury. 169 pp. $28 nolead ends nolead begins
Reviewed by Laurie Hertzel
'One of the greatest things you can do in life is walk around New York," cartoonist Roz Chast says in her illustrated nonfiction book Going Into Town. And with that, she proceeds to walk around New York, giving a practical and humorous tour, starting broad (with the layout of Manhattan Island) and quickly narrowing to delightful observations and advice on museums, restaurants, cockroaches, apartment supers, oddball shops, and navigating the subway system.
New York City, Chast says, is the place she loves "more than anyplace else," and this book is written with obvious affection - though her affection is often for the wacky.
She loves the city's busyness, the "density of visual information," the way you can get anywhere on foot and see amazing things at every step. "At its widest, Manhattan is only 2.3 miles across," she notes, a fine serious fact, which she then follows with this truly Chastian observation: "You could probably plug in a toaster in an apartment near the Hudson River, run the cord along 14th Street, and make yourself some toast near the East River."
Chast is a cartoonist for the New Yorker magazine and a 2014 National Book Award finalist for Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?, her memoir about her difficult, aging parents. This book has a more modest ambition. But it's quirky and witty, her illustrations are as weird and poignant as always, and, most of all, it's just fun to see what grabs her attention. It will grab yours, too, and change the way you view New York.