Only in New York

Lily Brett

Only in New York
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Only in New York

Lily Brett

New York is a walker’s city. You can walk for hours. The streets slip by. There is so much to look at, so much to take in. I walk a lot. Especially when I am not writing…

Lily Brett’s love affair with New York began as an outsider in her late teens when she was posted on assignment there as a young Australian rock journalist. In her early forties she returned, together with her soul mate and three children, to start a new life, and for the last twenty-five years she has called New York home.

This witty, candid and moving collection of short pieces celebrates the city that’s now part of her heartbeat. A compulsive walker, Brett takes us to her favourite places and introduces us to the characters of the city that has nurtured, perplexed and inspired her. She brings to life the delights of Chinatown, the majesty of Grand Central Station, the lure of spandex and sequins in the Garment District, and the peculiarity of canine couture. And she muses on the miracle of love in the Lodz ghetto, the possibility of loneliness amidst skyscrapers, and the joy and redemption in a child’s curiosity.

Full of wisdom, humour and grace, Only in New York is a human portrait of a city much loved - and of a woman in step with herself.

Review

Read this book if: a) you have been or are going to New York, b) you are interested in how a writer thinks, or c) if you are curious about psychics in the Big Apple. You should also read this book if none of these apply to you.

Lily Brett lives in New York with her three children and Australian husband, David Rankin. Only in New York reads as a memoir illustrating Brett’s ever-changing relationship with the city. Her infatuation with New York began when she, a rock music journalist at the time, visited the city on an assignment. Her 2012 novel, Lola Bensky, offered something similiar: an Australian rock journalist sent to London for its thriving music scene. Brett’s voice in her latest book is just as compelling as Lola Bensky’s as she again seeks to understand a city through writing.

This memoir is a collection of short pieces that present the potential dangers and joys of living in NYC. She contemplates the repercussions of wearing shorts down Fifth Avenue, spends 290 dollars on healing her aura for ‘research’ (this is debatable), falls in love with a church despite identifying as a Jewish Atheist (or, perhaps, a ninety-per cent Atheist). She also explores the transmission of trauma from parents to children.

Only in New York is a charming and unique narrative on the city. She achieves a perfect combination of wit and naivety, creating a memoir that acknowledges the existence of good and bad experiences, awkward quirks and love affairs with buildings. Just read the book. If you’re anything like me, picking it up will mean spending hours in the sun reading followed by hours of obsessively planning a trip to New York. Brett’s words have the ability to transport you to the city from the comfort of your own back yard: you may even find it unnecessary to fly to New York after reading her latest instalment.


Savannah Indigo works as a bookseller at Readings Malvern..

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