On the reason for New York

So, why New York?

Not an existential question, although indeed when I’m standing on a street corner in the rain jostled by humanity and competing with twenty other black-clad women (all of them in shoes that I could not even stand in, much less leap for a cab door in) for one paltry taxi with its lights lit for custom—when I’m in that state, as I say, I wonder why the hell this mad city should exist.

But actually, I mean by that question, why do I go to New York? This is a big country. I am a busy person. Like most other busy people in this big country, I don’t have money to burn, so I keep track of where it goes, and I think twice about anything with too many zeros at the end of its price tag.

This trip to New York cost me four days (five if you count Saturday, spent bleary-brained when the most I got done was laundry), a lot of energy, blisters, the contributed good will and effort of the family members covering my responsibilities at home, and more zeros on the price tag than I need to think about.

What did I get in exchange?

A renewal of friendships, difficult and rare in this business. Hand-shakes with a lot of people, reminding them of my existence (as I said, this is a big country, and Monterey Bay, CA is on the farthest edges.)

Business talks of the kind that simply don’t take place over email or telephone, those wide-ranging and apparently amorphous conversations that only later blossom into actual business, when a casually dropped idea puts down roots, when a shared interest or acquaintance opens unexpected doors.

The more deliberate business talks, appointments made with editors and publicists in which questions and proposals are batted around for a while, and comments made that come to loom large: the minor complaint about a manuscript that turns into an important revelation; the question about trade versus mass market that brings insights into the industry, and the looming questions of electronic versus paper, tastes and trends, the arc of a series, the unexpected and the wildly anticipated: What’s next in this business?

And of course, there’s book talk: What have you read? Yes, even people who spend their every working hour with type in front of their eyes still read for pleasure, and talk about it: What have you read recently that you loved? What have you hated and discarded, despaired about and admired, sold and bought? What books have covers that work, or covers that don’t? What book did what was expected, and which did precisely what everyone thought it would? And the genre itself: mystery versus thriller, series versus stand-alone, women and men, here or abroad, the meat and potatoes of daily life that gets overlooked in the flash of truffles and arugula.

I return home tired and broke, but restored in my awareness of what I do for a living, and a loving.

I am a writer; the publishing industry is centered in New York; therefore I go to New York.

More on Laurie’s First Trip to the Big Apple in a day or two.

Comments

  1. nkk1969 says:

    There’s something about New York City that almost makes you forget why you hate it if you haven’t been there in a while. Every 4 or 5 years I get the hankering to go there and start I looking for an excuse. Went there a year ago in December to attend a friend’s wedding in the Bronx. Though my husband drives like a native, I’m sure the trip shaved years off my life. I have no desire to go again anytime soon. Talk to me in 3 or 4 years.

  2. corgimom says:

    Katz Deli and Gramercy Park are my two reasons for New York. Would that I could work those reasons into income/living/loving reasons.

  3. “Laurie’s First Trip to the Big Apple” suggest you’d never been there before, hardly seems possible.

  4. Sorry, poor punctuation is a result of pre-caffeine posting.

    Should have been: More, on Laurie’s First Trip to the Big Apple, in a day or so.

  5. I’ve lived in New York for 20 years now, and what can I say? I still love it. I don’t run across the nastiness much, and I’m not sure how it’s gotten so legendary. I hope you come again and my fair city shows you more of its good sides.

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