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.
... 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.