「Wonderful Town: New York Stories from The New Yorker」
The exquisite prose in this short story collection is no surprise considering the magazine that brings it to us. The New Yorker has been a staple of New York life since 1925, its fiction section characterized by stories possessing an urbane charm and sprawling poetic language. Wonderful Town is a collection of some of the best of these stories, leaving an indelible mark on the reader, and boasting contributors such as Updike, Kincaid, and Nabokov, as well as several other talented 20th century voices. Each piece winds its way through the cramped streets and dripping alleys of New York City, bringing the reader into this unique and treasured world by way of the greatest literary minds of our time.
Some of the more notable pieces include Cheever’s The Five-Forty-Eight (1954), a tale of immorality and fragility laid starkly before us against the backdrop of the rainy streets of New York and a crowded commuter train, Eisenberg’s What It Was Like, Seeing Chris (1985), in which a fourteen year old girl fears going blind, quite literally, in the face of a curious and puzzling first love, and Conroy’s Midair (1984), selections from the novel by the same title, which defines for us what it is to be a son to a father and then a father to sons, and what happens when a fear of falling grows older.
The forty-four stories vary greatly in genre and subject matter from the postmodern (The Balloon) to the realist (Apartment Hotel) and from love lost (Distant Music) to satire (The Whore of Mensa). Its versatility and range not only make this collection a necessity for lovers of short fiction, but the pieces themselves demonstrate the care and precision with which the New Yorker has always chosen its representative writing. The movement and very humanity of these pieces is quite hard to shake, and the tales themselves both challenge and confirm our conceptions of The Big Apple and its inhabitants.