Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Rakoff on New York

I've been reading David Rakoff's new book, Half Empty, and immensely enjoying what feels like a meeting of the minds. He champions the positive power of negative thinking, in general, and here and there, has something to say about New York City.



In his essay "Isn't It Romantic," he goes after the musical Rent for being bad in many ways. This quote from the essay stood out and I reproduce it here because how often does someone sum it all up so neatly?

"...New York was becoming far too expensive and criminally inhospitable to young people who tried to come here with dreams of making art, and how regrettable that the town's vibrancy and authenticity were being replaced by a culture-free, high-end-retail cluster-fuck of luxury condo buildings whose all-glass walls essentially require a populace that doesn't own bookshelves or, consequently, books.

A metropolis of streets once thriving with local businesses and services now consisting of nothing but Marc Jacobs store after Marc Jacobs store and cupcake purveyors (is there anything more blandly sweet, less evocative of this great city, and more goyish than any other baked good with the possible exception of Eucharist wafers than the cupcake?)."


The St. Mark's Bookshop has copies of Half Empty in stock.

See Also:
Fran on NYC
Sante's Lost City

10 comments:

La Vie Boheme said...

Gonna read the Rakoff book. Thanks for bringing it our attention, JM. Still, I hadn't read your post on RENT until just now. I don't care for the musical, but I wonder if it's unfair to suggest that RENT is like "Sex in the City" in cheapening the bohemian EV lifestyle. After all, RENT was very daring in its day for bringing attention to HIV/AIDS. Shouldn't we give a pass to the musical for its Disney treatment of Alphabet City because of other good intentions?

John M said...

Well, we *could* give Rent a pass (I refuse the all cap nod to pretension), but let's not. It sucked, it was phony from day 1, and it was embraced by everyone who would never, ever dare to live like the stereotypical 'artistes' depicted. Or, for that matter, live next door to them.

The HIV thing was daring in its day? I'm not sure, but wasn't that about 10 years after everyone started dying?

Jeremiah Moss said...

in the essay, Rakoff says, "In Rent, AIDS seems only to render one cuter and cuter."

Marty Wombacher said...

"is there anything more blandly sweet, less evocative of this great city, and more goyish than any other baked good with the possible exception of Eucharist wafers than the cupcake?"

Ha ha ha! That's a genius sentence and thought, I have to check out the book, thanks for recommending it.

Goggla said...

"...the town's vibrancy and authenticity were being replaced by a culture-free, high-end-retail cluster-fuck of luxury condo buildings whose all-glass walls essentially require a populace that doesn't own bookshelves or, consequently, books."

Ha, so true! And, sad...soulless glass boxes inhabited by kindles and [i]pods...when it comes to culture and personality, the city really does feel more than half empty.

Erika said...

I must admit that I will always have a soft spot for RENT because I grew up singing along to the music...but I just looked at the Life Cafe's website, and HOT DAMN the prices are ridiculous! For making money off of being Bohemian and supporting starving artists, they sound like they're more fit for the super elite who live there now ;P

Melanie said...

Sounds like an interesting read.
Just wanted to wish you a belated Happy Holiday and a Very Happy New Year filled with joy and happiness.Thanks for sharing some of the most interesting things.

Suburban Guy said...

I always hated Rent ever since a vapid ex-girlfriend who never lived in NYC proclaimed it "authentic". One of the many reasons she's an ex.

cupcakes are basically disneylands version of "ethnic" food.

Grade "A" Fancy said...

Don't blame the cupcake, blame the messenger.

Anonymous said...

WFT is "goyish" about a cupcake?

How about this sentence: "There is nothing more jewish than the producers, writers, and star of Sex and the City."