The City and The City

O. Henry, “The Duel” (1910):

Your opponent is the City. You must do battle with it from the time the ferry-boat lands you on the island until either it is yours or it has conquered you. The battle is to decide whether you shall become a New Yorker or turn the rankest outlander and Philistine. You must be one or the other. You cannot remain neutral.

John Berger, “Keeping a Rendezvous” (1987):

Every city has a sex and an age which have nothing to do with demography. Rome is feminine. So is Odessa. London is a teenager, an urchin, and in this hasn’t changed since the time of Dickens. Paris, I believe, is a man in his twenties in love with an older woman.

To which some droll New Yorker replied: “Albany is an old man in a deli, trying to send back soup.”

Walt Whitman, “Song of the Broad Axe” (1856):

The great city is that which has the greatest men and women. If it be a few ragged huts it is still the greatest city in the whole world.

All yoinked from the most recent Lapham’s Quarterly.

London, Ontario is of course a student with Ugg boots and big sunglasses. (I kid because I love.)

3 Comments

  1. Levon Helm, “The Last Waltz” (1978):

    New York, it was an adult portion. It was an adult dose. So it took a couple of trips to get into it. You just go in the first time and you get your ass kicked and you take off. As soon as it heals up, you come back and you try it again. Eventually, you fall right in love with it.

  2. O. Henry was right about all but one thing: no one beats the city. You stay, New York wins. You leave, New York still wins. The “fight” is rigged – New York writes the rules.

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