New Yorkers: A loving oral history that doesn’t shy away from darkness

Book review: Craig Taylor is more interested in the pavement than the penthouse

New Yorkers is more concerned with the people who keep the city running than with the super rich.

New Yorkers is more concerned with the people who keep the city running than with the super rich.

“Heaven looks like the South Bronx,” an interviewee tells Craig Taylor near the end of New Yorkers. The observation is made by a troubled man describing his leap from the roof of a building. On hitting the ground, believing he was dead, he looked up and saw the same South Bronx he had assumed that he was leaving forever: “I saw angels walking in the store and buying groceries.”

Taylor’s intimate, loving and lyrical oral history of New York doesn’t shy away from the darkness and despair of city life. He’s more interested in the pavement than the penthouse, more concerned with the people who keep the city running than with the super rich. (“In New York, the people are the texture,” an ex-cabbie tells him.) It’s a book that admires the city’s relentless energy while acknowledging that such relentlessness can wear you down. (“You get a lot of grinding,” a dentist says of New Yorkers’ teeth.)

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