There’s no getting around it. If you’re in publishing, you will eventually go to New York City. Nowhere else will you find such a concentration of publishing houses with such a diverse local readership. We had to go, not just out of practicality but also out of devotion: a Hajj for the literary faithful.

Once arrangements were made, we hosed our author down like a prized pachyderm and dressed him for a two-day pilgrimage. Mind you, we used to call the north shore of Boston home, so we’ve seen big cities…

Actually, we haven’t.

At street level, looking down the avenue, we were in a canyon with sheer brick cliffs on each side. The sensation was of being among massive mineral and metal organisms–the kind which form mountains when left to go wild. Here, in this place, they are cultivated, cut, shaped, nurtured and fed like trees in a Titan’s orchard. Here, geology has been tamed and a very specific, crystalline form imposed upon it.

There is no other place on Earth like this. It could never be mistaken for anything but the epitome of collective will, being so far removed from natural process that everything visible feels as though it must’ve fallen from outer space. That goes for the inhabitants, too, as people far too attractive to be found in nature crowd the pavements. Everywhere we went, it was like we had blundered onto a movie set.

Business done, we retired to a modest hotel. That’s when we discovered (with some delight) that the hotel windows open. All it took was a glance at the drop to get Farnham sweating like old dynamite.

Seventeen floors up, the breeze carries the omnipresent smell of vaporized metal and diesel fume. It’s a smell of industry and energy, the exhalation of millions, both man and machine.

Millions out on their own particular missions. Delivery trucks defying their own dimensions and needling their way through impossibly narrow lanes. Honking cabs, advancing and pressuring pedestrians out of the crosswalk. Pedestrians halting in front of honking cabs, turning with a killing look and a credible oath to shoot the cabbie’s f***ing head off…

It’s an exciting place. Seductive. Indifferent. And productive, we should add. Absolutely worth the trip. While we’re not contemplating a move here, we’ll certainly be back…

…assuming we survive the fatwa for comparing New York to Mecca, that is.



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