Thankfully, New Yorkers is not War and Peace, with its several hundred characters. Taylor culled and cut a lot. But among those who made it into New Yorkers, some are unforgettable ... The subtitle of New Yorkers is almost as generic as a Duane Reade: 'A City and Its People in Our Time.' Happily, New Yorkers is livelier than that. Much livelier ... Some of what surges past makes you cringe ... [interviewee Joshua] Jelly-Schapiro’s last few lines nicely capture his city and Taylor’s, a place that too often seems unfathomable to its populace and unmanageable to its leaders.
... a grand fugue for organ, with all the stops pulled out. It is a gift right now, when New York City is coming back from a pandemic winter that has been the ruin of many a favourite restaurant, bar and sandwich shop, and put the lives of anyone in the performing arts on pause indefinitely. Contrary to popular reports, New York is no ghost town. In New Yorkers the city is hopping, punching, reeling, dancing, thrumming, honking, thriving ... Taylor’s presence is felt between the lines; he is as skilled a writer of literary nonfiction as I have ever read. It helps that he is Canadian: a book like this calls for an observer, a listener, a sniffer who is alien but not too alien.
The world depicted here can be a harsh and bleak one, but not without humanity and wit, which Taylor captures superbly ... one of this fine book’s many pleasures is the way in which its overlapping prose aptly complements the adrenaline rush of the city’s frantic daily ballet.
I’ve lived in Britain for more than 35 years and in London for a quarter century. But New York is my hometown ... Craig Taylor’s new [book] reconjured the city for me ... Taylor is Canadian, an outsider: his love of New York is plain, his ability to listen extraordinary ... Some interviews are concerned with the purely personal, while others offer a brutally vivid portrait of momentous events ... splendid ... Everyone and no one belongs to New York.
... a teeming oral history ... The kaleidoscopic portrait captures the city’s thrilling lexical diversity, as well as moments of grace, compassion, cruelty, and racism. 'I do have like a sort of philosophical thing about New York,' one of his interviewees...confesses; the obsessions, allegiances, habits, desires, and serendipities on display here suggest why anyone might.
Craig Taylor’s new chronicle of New York...crackle[s] with chatty charm and vitality. And maybe a pinch of nostalgia too ... What rings true through the book is the extraordinariness of the everyday and the pep, vim and verve of a city audacious enough—as the dust jacket claims—to call itself the greatest in the world. They say that you can see the whole universe in an opal; you can see plenty in a Big Apple too.
One of Craig Taylor’s many skills as an interviewer lies in his eye for the vivid detail that captures a larger abstraction ... [a] remarkable book ... touching autobiographical interludes ... Taylor also manages to convey the zest and ebullience of New Yorkers, captured in the punchiness of their speech patterns.
... ambitious and entertaining ... Taylor’s style is gentler, and he’s not concerned with capturing the truth of a particular historical moment ... Taylor leans in to the cliches, and usually manages to get beyond them, extracting some unexpected nugget of information, some gem of city wisdom ... Much of the pleasure of New Yorkers comes from a kind of sly parataxis, the rhetorical trope in which elements are placed side by side, without being overtly connected together ... a narrative montage of faces and perspectives that is pressed into the service of – what, though? There’s an implicit idea of the cosmopolis, the city that contains the whole world ... Taylor is a humanist – both in the sense of wishing to be of service to others, and in the sense of seeing a city as fundamentally about people. In one sense, the point is inarguable. What else would a city be 'about' but the people who live there? But cities also have a non-human life as well, a life that demands to be thought of in terms of systems – of sewers and power lines, transportation, communication. Cities are ecologies. They’re surfaces over which power and control are distributed with varying intensities. People are also members of populations, through which viruses are transmitted...It’s not Taylor’s project to describe New York in this way, and the absence of this perspective isn’t necessarily a shortcoming of a book that admirably succeeds in what it sets out to do. It does, however, limit what can be said. Inevitably, in a book about New York, stories about development and gentrification loom in the background ... He does a fine job of telling the New York story, but the place doesn’t get into his blood. He doesn’t dream the dream.
Taylor corrals under one roof so many of the remarkable characters who populate 'the city that never sleeps' that it amazes me anew. Somehow the author blends scores of marvellous human stories, told in each individual’s own words, into a kind of magnificent chorus of human striving, which sometimes swells to an absolute crescendo in New York. If you wish, it’s easy flip around to what most appeals. But there is a kind of hidden purity running throughout this book, partly owing to its methods ... A garden of earthly delights ... Taylor’s book is like an epic travelogue ... But even as the characters keep—'coming at you'—as life does in New York—in apparent randomness one always senses an underlying purpose at work ... There’s great story telling here. Certain segments dealing with heights are so vivid they nearly made my pulse race ... For many, New York is ultimately a lonely, and soul-wracking place. Taylor never really seemed to crack the codes that make it a bright and exciting springboard for the countless young people who keep pouring in ... It would have been good if Taylor found such moments, too. But he sure finds other worlds aplenty in this great extravaganza of New Yorkers.
Nearly all the isolated stories are interesting; there are only a few duds ... The emotional heart of New Yorkers can be found in the testimonies of people who directly experienced the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Hurricane Sandy and the COVID-19 pandemic. Reading firsthand accounts of these extraordinary events is poignant and resonant. Likewise, the New Yorkers who share their experiences with homelessness and racism reveal as much about these societal scourges as the best reportage could ... All of that said, New York City is home to roughly 8.5 million people, so readers will inevitably emerge with the feeling that plenty of stories were left out. For example, even with the number of women included in the book, the overall collection leans toward traditionally masculine occupations. Why not include a manicurist, an OB-GYN, a burlesque dancer or a personal shopper from Bergdorf Goodman? And how could a book about New York City include no public school teachers or librarians? ... To this end, New Yorkers is more of a collection of Taylor’s own experiences in New York City than a comprehensive representation. Nevertheless, it’s a delightful book for anyone with an interest in New York—and a reminder that everyone has a story, if we’re willing to listen.
... intriguing ... creates a fascinating picture of a city that can be loathed and hated, yet admired and revered at the same time ... A varied book that will appeal to armchair travelers and others curious about New York. Highly recommended for public libraries as well as large academic libraries the world over.
[Taylor] finds remarkable storytellers among the city’s eight million residents, a diverse lot from the city’s five boroughs, each borough claiming its own uniqueness. In this oral history, Taylor stands back as his subjects speak for themselves ... Taylor brings the record up to date with a nurse coping with dying COVID-19 patients as well as a lawyer who contracted the virus nearly fatally. No celebrities appear, just regular people who live and struggle, some quietly and heroically, in America’s first city.
... lively ... fine and fearless ... fine because it’s so thoughtful and revealing, fearless because the author’s method is to engage strangers in conversation that quickly becomes oral history ... Altogether, a compelling portrait of New York and a must-read for residents and visitors alike.