Wednesday, April 29, 2009

New York

My first thought: Somebody, please tell me why this graphic novel -- New York Four -- has not been made into a series?

This is pretty much the only complaint that I have about this work that features Riley Wilder, twenty-something rich kid let loose on the streets of Manhattan to attend NYU.

I read it quickly, enjoying the portrayal of a young woman's anxieties that author Brian Wood has created. Riley's first taste of freedom is tainted by conflicting family loyalties, awkwardness, but the excitement she feels is heightened by intrigue and the unknown.

We visit Japanese restaurants, comfortable apartments, and dance clubs.

Manhattan is gritty but there's not even a glimpse of the more traditional depiction of New York City streets: crime, homelessness, etc. New York is not as bad as the media would have us believe.

The setting stands in stark contrast to the book I read before this: Overheard in New York (Updated), by Morgan S. Friedman and Michael Malice, founders of the well-known blog of the same name.

Racism, toilet humour, sexual positions and preferences. Nothing is off limits. Cruelty, indifference, ignorance and thoughtlessness. Nothing is unthinkable.

Though the latter is handpicked from reality, it actually seems less believable than the fictitious angst and naivete of a young woman on her own in the big city. Hang on. Here comes the cringe-worthy cliche: Truth is stranger than fiction.

Or is it that I'm in denial, that I don't want to believe the worst of people is possible? I doubt it. Or do I want to hang on to the image that I have cultivated of a city in my dreams? More likely.

But, it's all possible. Maybe that's partly the message -- good or ill -- of both books: Anything is possible.

But the books exist in a state of tension. To believe the worst of New York in reality in Overheard, I have to believe the best of New York in fiction in New York Four.

Overheard In New York
Brian Wood

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