Category Archives: Books to read

Building up love with Lego

Here’s one of the wittiest  love declarations to New York I’ve ever seen. This chunky little board book is an imaginative look at life in the city constructed entirely out of Legos. In fewer pieces than one might think possible I Lego N.Y. captures both the iconic (the Empire State Building) and the mundane (man standing on a subway platform). The Lego-master builder is the German illustrator Christoph Niemann, who, after 11 years in NYC and a ton of covers for The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine and whatnot, recently moved back to Berlin.

I Lego N.Y. by Christoph Niemann, Abrams Image.

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The expatriate paradox

We may assume that most of The Khaleej Times‘ readership is multinational. It is highest-circulated English language newspapers in the Persian Gulf. We may also assume that most of these readers have more important stuff to deal with than homesickness. The Khaleej Times features everything your average successful business guy would need: general news, business, sports.

Sentimental stuff such as homesickness doesn’t seem to fit the agenda. Yet, author Pratibha Umashankar wrote this piece about the mutual influences between expatriates and their host countries. She starts her comment with a very blunt and nice statement:

Scratch the surface, and almost all expatriates admit to homesickness … Apart from monetary and/or intellectual compulsions that make us uproot ourselves from our country, there’s an urge to explore and to find out what lies beyond our narrow horizons. From Hiuen-Tsang and Columbus to the banker and baker round the corner, we suffer from “far-sickness” – a wanderlust. We leave our homes and travel to distant shores. And then, systematically recreate the land we have left behind. Our homesickness is constantly at variance with our far-sickness.

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Peeking through the keyhole

Wanna know more about your fellow New Yorkers? Then join photographer, graphic designer, illustrator and hipster Todd Selby on his ramble through his friends’ apartments and residences. Don’t get discouraged by the site, it is, as most blogs, a little confusing. Most posts are introduced by a picture and a tiny header that tells us about the people Selby has photographed: their names, professions, where they live (or sometimes work) and the date of the post. “dick page – makeup artist; and james gibbs – founder of dbox
at their home – new york – march 30th 2010”, one of them says for instance. Continue reading

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Conquering New York. Or not.

I came into New York an emperor on a barge. It wasn’t the skipper who was taking the boat in, but my will to conquer, and I was almost sorry for the New York that would hav yield so completely to my demands.

Remarkable words, written by  the American author and Noble Prize laureate Sinclair Lewis in  That Was New York—And That Was Me (published in New Yorker in 1937). “However”, writes Sheldon Grebstein in his 1955 The Education of a Rebel: Sinclair Lewis at Yale, “Sinclair Lewis was never  quite at home in New York no matter how much time he spent there, even as a famous and successful writer, and his later books as well as the early ones gave ample evidence of this.” New York is hard to defeat, even by its most successful dwellers. That’s discouraging. Half a point off.

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Rootless

“When I was writing ‘Homesick,’ you could say that I was preoccupied with the question of home: Where is my home, what is my home?” says Israeli novelist Eshkol Nevo in an interview with Forward. The Jewish Daily. He refers to is his third novel, Homesick, that is about to be published in the US.

The novel that spent 60 weeks on the Israeli best-seller list and won several awards since it has first been published in 2004 takes place in Maoz Zion, a small village in the hills outside Jerusalem. Set in 1995 at the time of Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination, it switches among the stories of six inhabitants: Noa and Amir, a young couple setting up their first home together; Moshe, their religious landlord, and his wife Sima; 10-year-old Yotam, whose elder brother has been killed in Lebanon; and Saddiq, a Palestinian laborer, who meditates on the fact that the village was his and his parent’s home before the 1948 War of Independence. Continue reading

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Gentrification in Harlem, 25 years ago

Der Spiegel is a well renowned German news magazine. 25 years ago, on March 11, 1985, it published an article that dealt with the beginning gentrification in Harlem. The writing shows some annoying weaknesses (confusing structure, too much history, too little present, partially really bad–and outdated–language) but it’s interesting to read about the early evidence of a phenomenon that is as up-to-date today as it was in 1985.

After a long historical introduction, here’s some of what the article says:

Urbane Geister sehen in “gentrification” ein zerstörerisches Bleichmittel, das den Mischquartieren Farbe und Vielfalt nimmt und, so der Rechtsanwalt Saul Miller, aus dem “Patchwork der Stadt” ein einziges “weißes Laken” macht. Andere Gegenden Manhattans haben die Behandlung bereits hinter sich: So-Ho, Chelsea, TriBeCa (ein Dreieck südlich der Canal Street). Nun ist wohl Harlem dran.

Urban minds see gentrification as a destructive bleach, says the lawyer Saul Miller, which removes all color and variety from the multiracial quarters and turns the city patchwork into a single white sheet. Other areas of Manhattan have already undergone the treatment: Soho, Chelsea, TriBeCa (a triangle South of Canal Street). Now, it seems to be Harlem’s turn. Continue reading

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A lifetime of secrets

In November 2004, Frank Warren startet an art project called Postsecret.com. On this plattform he invites people to send him creatively decorated postcards bearing secrets they have never before revealed; and he shares these Postsecrets on the same plattform. The project is so successful that, in the meantime, Warren has published a couple of books full of confessions. One of them is A lifetime of secrets. In there, I found this postcard from a very homesick American in Bath, GB. “I write home telling everyone what a great time I’m having … secretly I’ve never felt so ALONE in my life”, he or she writes. Yes. I know. Half a point for a shared secret.

A lifetime of secrets. A Postsecret Book by Frank Warren, 2007, HarperCollins

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