Beyond the Book: Background information when reading Chronic City

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Chronic City

by Jonathan Lethem

Chronic City by Jonathan Lethem
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  • First Published:
    Oct 2009, 480 pages
    Paperback:
    Aug 2010, 480 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Donna Chavez

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Touring New York City
Everyone knows New York! Even if you've never visited you've probably read about it in books such as Jonathan Letham's (which are all set in the City). If you haven't read about it, the chances are that one of the countless TV shows such as NYPD Blue, Friends, and Sex and the City has introduced you to a variety of its streets, apartment buildings, alleys and restaurants. Even if you missed these, you've probably seen it portrayed in some of the hundreds of movies filmed there, from classics such as Breakfast at Tiffany's and Barefoot in the Park to more recent films such as the Spiderman movies. At the very least, the chances are you've had your present and future financial status affected by Wall Street!

There is so much more to be known about NYC than can be found by visiting the main tourist attractions, although they are certainly as good a place as any to start. For example, many tourists will visit President Ulysses S Grant's Tomb, which is also the location of one of the City's most popular riddles (made famous by Groucho Marx's You Bet Your Life quiz), "Who's buried in Grant's Tomb"; The correct answer is, of course, no one - Grant and his wife are entombed, not buried.

Perhaps you already knew that Grant's resting place is the largest tomb in New York, in fact the largest tomb in the entire USA; but did you know that the burial plot of an 18th Century tot on Riverside Drive has the distinction of being the smallest cemetery in Manhattan?

Like countless other cities across America, New York's personality is built upon generations of forgotten landmarks. For example, one block from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York is a tiny, little-known street called Gold Street; not named for its location close to the Fed but for the golden fields of corn that once grew on the now leveled Golden Hill. A visit to forgotten-ny.com gives a glimpse of a town whose personality even many Manhattanites wouldn't recognize; and a visit to BookBrowse's New York reading list (one of over 100 themed reading lists available to members) will uncover over a hundred exceptional books set in the State of New York, most of them in New York City - past, present, and even future.

If you'd like to introduce your children to the wonders of Manhattan, we recommend The Night Tourist which explores the City both above and below ground, often referencing Viele's 1874 map of Manhattan. And if you've ever wondered what Manhattan was like before it was a city, you can travel back in time with The Manhatta Project for a glimpse of the island in its natural state.

Article by Donna Chavez

This article was originally published in October 2009, and has been updated for the August 2010 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

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