15 Book Quotes About New York City

If you live in New York City, chances are you've already noticed that most of the baristas, babysitters, dog walkers, living statues, bartenders, and waiters are aspiring writers (or, at the very least, they are all out-of-work actors who are also writing a screenplay). There's something about New York City that attracts writers. Or there's something about writers that makes them masochistic enough to want to live in New York City. Either way, the result is a bunch of brilliant book quotes about New York.

It makes sense that writers are drawn to New York. It's home to some of the biggest literary agencies and book publishers in the world. There are plenty of fun things to distract you from ever actually having to write. And there are lots of hot dudes reading on the subway for inspiration. But it also makes no sense at all for writers to live in New York: it's expensive, the coffee shops are always too crowded, and you are guaranteed to run into that girl from your high school writing workshop who just published a book of her tweets.

Despite it all, these writers stuck in out in New York long enough to jot down a few words of wisdom on life in the city:

1. New York is an ugly city, a dirty city. Its climate is a scandal, its politics are used to frighten children, its traffic is madness, its competition is murderous. But there is one thing about it—once you have lived in New York and it has become your home, no place else is good enough.

― John Steinbeck, America and Americans and Selected Nonfiction

2. London is satisfied, Paris is resigned, but New York is always hopeful. Always it believes that something good is about to come off, and it must hurry to meet it.

― Dorothy Parker, The Portable Dorothy Parker

3. Each neighborhood of the city appeared to be made of a different substance, each seemed to have a different air pressure, a different psychic weight: the bright lights and shuttered shops, the housing projects and luxury hotels, the fire escapes and city parks.

― Teju Cole, Open City

4. I love New York, even though it isn’t mine, the way something has to be, a tree or a street or a house, something, anyway, that belongs to me because I belong to it.

— Truman Capote, Breakfast at Tiffany’s

5. You don’t come to live here unless the delusion of a reality shaped around your own desires isn’t a strong aspect of your personality. “A reality shaped around your own desires” —there is something sociopathic in that ambition.

— Zadie Smith, Find Your Beach

6. The last time anybody made a list of the top hundred character attributes of New Yorkers, common sense snuck in at number 79.

― Douglas Adams, Mostly Harmless

7. You swallow hard when you discover that the old coffee shop is now a chain pharmacy, that the place where you first kissed so-and-so is now a discount electronics retailer, that where you bought this very jacket is now rubble behind a blue plywood fence and a future office building. Damage has been done to your city. You say, ''It happened overnight.'' But of course it didn't. Your pizza parlor, his shoeshine stand, her hat store: when they were here, we neglected them. For all you know, the place closed down moments after the last time you walked out the door. (Ten months ago? Six years? Fifteen? You can't remember, can you?) And there have been five stores in that spot before the travel agency. Five different neighborhoods coming and going between then and now, other people's other cities. Or 15, 25, 100 neighborhoods. Thousands of people pass that storefront every day, each one haunting the streets of his or her own New York, not one of them seeing the same thing.

― Colson Whitehead, The Colossus of New York

8. By comparison with other less hectic days, the city is uncomfortable and inconvenient; but New Yorkers temperamentally do not crave comfort and convenience—if they did they would live elsewhere.

― E.B. White, Here Is New York

9. Far below and around lay the city like a ragged purple dream. The irregular houses were like the broken exteriors of cliffs lining deep gulches and winding streams. Some were mountainous; some lay in long, monotonous rows like, the basalt precipices hanging over desert canyons. Such was the background of the wonderful, cruel, enchanting, bewildering, fatal, great city.

― O. Henry, The Duel. In Strictly Business.

10. New York City is the most fatally fascinating thing in America. She sits like a great witch at the gate of the country, showing her alluring white face, and hiding her crooked hands and feet under the folds of her wide garments—constantly enticing thousands from far within, and tempting those who come from across the seas to go no farther.

James Weldon Johnson, The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man

11. The city seen from the Queensboro Bridge is always the city seen for the first time, in its first wild promise of all the mystery and the beauty in the world.

― F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

12. Everything in New York is a photograph. All the things that are supposed to be dirty or rough or unrefined are the most beautiful things. Garbage cans at the ends of alleyways look like they've been up all night talking with each other. Doorways with peeling paint look like the wise lines around an old feller's eyes.

― Ann-Marie MacDonald, Fall on Your Knees

13. While America will always, I think, feel foreign to me, New York City is my home. This is where I can construct my own identity freely and reject labels imposed on me.

― Raquel Cepeda, Bird of Paradise: How I Became Latina

14. A hundred times I have thought: New York is a catastrophe, and fifty times: it is a beautiful catastrophe.

― Le Corbusier, When the Cathedrals Were White

15. The true New Yorker secretly believes that people living anywhere else have to be, in some sense, kidding.

― John Updike, The New Yorker (March 29, 1976)

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