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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

more living for the city: 2 quotes

I came across two great quotes about the city that I want to get up before they slip away into the ether.

The first was in a book I was flipping through at a friend's apartment last weekend, called"New York Vertical": "There is no hope for New Yorkers, for they glory in their skyscraping sins; but in Brooklyn there a wisdom of the lowly." Attributed to one Christoper Morley.

I was going to leave it at that, but couldn't resist Google-ing it. Here is the full passage, which I pulled from this account of teaching Whitman in Brooklyn Heights (which reminds me I need to finally read some Whitman this summer..esp since this summer is being spent largely in Brooklyn):
New York is Babylon ; Brooklyn is the true Holy City . New York is the city of envy, office work, and hustle; Brooklyn is the region of homes and happiness. It is extraordinary: poor, harassed New Yorkers presume to look down on low-lying, home-loving Brooklyn , when as a matter of fact it is the precious jewel their souls are thirsting for and they never know it. Broadway: think how symbolic the name is. Broad is the way that leadeth to destruction! But in Brooklyn the ways are narrow, and they lead to the Heavenly City of content. Central Park : there you are--the centre of things, hemmed in by walls of pride. Now how much better is Prospect Park , giving a fair view over the hills of humility! There is no hope for New Yorkers, for they glory in their skyscraping sins; but in Brooklyn there is the wisdom of the lowly.”
Turns out this is from a 1917 novel titled "Parnassus on Wheels."

The other quote is better really--this one I came across at the beginning of Part Two of Jane Jacob's "The Death and Life of Great American Cities," which I started reading a few weeks ago, and have been making slow but steady progress on.

More on "Death and Life", and my concurrent reading of "The Power Broker", in future posts. For now, here Jane Jacobs quoting James Boswell:
"I have often amused myself," wrote James Boswell in 1791, "with thinking how different a place London is to different people. They, whose narrow minds are contracted to the consideration of some one particular pursuit, view it only through that medium...But the intellectual man is struck with it, as comprehending the whole of human life in all its variety, the contemplation of which is inexhaustible."
I'll comment only that it's been liberating to be freed from the one particular pursuit which dominated by first 14 months in the city (partaking in those skyscraping sins); and that I don't claim to be an intellectual man, but I am struck with the city, with comprehending human life in all its variety; and that it does seem to be inexhaustible, contemplating life in this great city of New York.

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