Translation from English

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Getting to know Pico Iyer (1): " Tropical Classical"

It's always interesting to read a well-known author you've never encountered before, and thus I have set out to discover the works of Pico Iyer.... the international writer ( born in England of Indian parents, brought up in California and England, graduate of Oxford. teacher at Harvard, writer for Time magazine, the New York Review of Books and tons of other publications...)

Iyer, who chooses to live in Japan because he will always be an outsider there, he says...that's his favorite viewpoint as a writer about "far flung places." 

His essay on New York City, written in 1990, is a little dated ( and how could he have possibly foreseen something like 9/11) but still essentially accurate--" a cultural pawnshop cluttered with bric-a-brac," and always, in memory anyway, a city in black and white, with something vaguely nightmarish about it....its skyline the inspiration for Fritz Lang's futuristic city in "Metropolis."

I think Iyer is wrong on one point: he seems to think dreams are impossible in New York-- whereas I, who live here, see it as a city of dreamers as well as doers... people who go on endlessly working as bartenders and waitresses waiting for their crack at Broadway ( or Off-Broadway); and, of course, these days, people filled with Greed and Ambition on a scale ranging from the ordinary to the $50 billion schemes of a Madoff. 

And I live in a neighborhood where, contrary to what Iyer says, children are everywhere... including countless mothers and nannies with their cute blond charges. ( Iyer's essay was written in 1990, before gentrification had wrought its many changes on Manhattan).

One comment really resonates, though: " No one makes a mark on New York, and New York leaves its mark on everyone."  Even in the post 9/11 world, in a city filled with yuppies and populated mostly with people from other places, this seems so oddly true...