Thursday, May 29, 2014

book review: Goodbye to All That: Writers on Loving and Leaving New York edited by Sari Botton

The basics: This collection of essays takes its inspiration from Joan Didion's famous essay of the same name and invites a younger generation of writers to write about their love affairs with New York.

My thoughts: I lived in New York City for only one summer, between my first and second years of college, but it was one of my favorite summers. I always imagined I'd end up living there, and when I met Mr. Nomadreader, a native upstate New Yorker, in Atlanta, we both figured we'd end up there. When we moved to Albany for me to go to graduate school, I still thought we'd end up in New York or Boston or somewhere nearby, but then reality charged in, and I realized the difference between academic librarian salaries varied little based on where you live, and as much as I love New York, I did not pick a job that would let me have any real quality of life if we lived there. Still: New York City is magical for me, and I knew this collection would be filled with people who similarly love New York and writing. And it is.

It's always difficult to review an edited collection. As always, some essays spoke to me more deeply than others, but it wasn't always the ones I most expected to respond to. This collection is filled with essays by writers whose work I've loved in the past, and I enjoyed this glimpse into their lives. One of my favorites was Elisa Albert's because she writes as much about Albany, where she now lives, as she does about New York City. And she captures Albany so beautifully, I stuck those pages in front of Mr. Nomadreader and said, "read this. Now. It's amazing."

As I read this collection, interspersed with other reading over several days, I found myself simultaneously missing New York and incredibly grateful for the life in Iowa we're building. I'm still nomadic at heart, and part of my nomadic roots is constantly picturing different lives for myself, mostly in different cities around the world. Yet as I read this collection, I felt so fully at home with my life in Des Moines that I could enjoy the past, think of the future, but mostly revel in the experiences of these gifted writers for what they were, rather than comparing my own experiences to theirs.

Favorite passage:  "Leaving things you love is easier when you’re younger. You make stupid decisions about the wrong people. You slammed the apartment door, throw your lover's clothes out the window onto the sidewalk. Leaving gets harder as you age. You don’t leave out of anger or from coming to your senses, but because your love is not as strong as your reasons for going." Melissa Febos, “Home”

The verdict: I adored this surprisingly diverse collection of essays. All are grounded with the same theme, but the styles, stories, approaches, and emotions are wonderfully different. If you too love New York, or if you simply want more insight into the life of writers, Goodbye to All That delivers.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Length: 288 pages
Publication date: October 8, 2013
Source: library

 Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy Goodbye to All That: Writers on Loving and Leaving New York from an independent bookstore, the Book Depository or Amazon (Kindle edition.)

Want more? Visit the book's website.

As an affiliate, I receive a small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you for helping to support my book habits that bring more content to this blog!


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  2. Oooh, will have to get this -- I love writings about place. NYC is not a favorite city of mine -- it is too much city for me! -- but it still has such importance culturally (and literar-ily!) that I'd eat up a volume like this.


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