A Hater’s Guide to New York

I’m not saying don’t go, I’m just suggesting that the actual city is basically a middling Woody Allen impression.

by E.L. 

New York Times Square
Image via Wikicommons

 There are some things you should keep in mind if you plan to visit the City.

What city, you may ask. Of course, it is exactly that attitude which betrays your embarrassing lack of cosmopolitan vision, and this is what you are coming to the City to correct.

You must first remember that there is no place for your bumpkinish awe at grand architecture. So don’t look up. If your eye strays above shoulder-level – better yet, above the pavement directly in front of your feet – you will look like such a tourist. Do everything in your power to hide this fact from real New Yorkers.

The best way to fool the natives is to go to Time Square and complain loudly about how much you hate tourists. And when you return to whatever sorry township you came from, you will carry this newfound disdain for the uninitiated home with you alongside your mostly-empty Metro card.

There is literally no destination that does not require you to wait in line. But the good news is that when you finally get in to whatever miserable hole of a dive pizza joint (alternatively, whatever New American swoop of artisanal foam) you’ve decided on, you will feel like you’ve really earned it. It’s as if the city is hazing you. Perhaps this is why natives love New York so much – some sort of post-hazing over-identification.

It’s called Stockholm Syndrome in kidnapping situations.

(Have you considered that you might not even need to go to New York to get the New York experience? I can make you a YouTube playlist of all the location shots from When Harry Met Sally and Manhattan for you to watch on your phone while you blithely ignore traffic signals.

I’m not saying don’t go, I’m just suggesting that the actual city is basically a middling Woody Allen impression. And wasn’t Woody Allen’s best work 35 years ago, anyway?)

There are bagels there. You may have heard that these are the only bagels worth the name. I can’t confirm or deny that. But if you’re going anyway, even after my YouTube playlist, you might as well try one.

You will notice that New Yorkers don’t make eye contact. Don’t take this personally. It’s simply a charming local superstition that the fleeting-est of glances into another human’s eyes will bring one’s alienated soul into contact with another and produce a brief but profound moment of empathy that threatens to lay bare the yawning loneliness of a life led among eight and a half million strangers.

Central Park is a thing, I guess. It’s really quite pleasant if you like golf course landscaping.

(If you’re in the market for seething masses of disgruntled people and overpriced food, have you considered your closest theme park? Everyone at Disney World is a tourist, so you’d fit right in! Just like Time Square only without all the New Yorkers there to hiss at you. Just think about it is all I’m saying.)

Discovering New York is like learning a new lover, so be patient and go slow. You’ll probably get used to the smell and if you’re careful you won’t catch a disease.

Definitely definitely go. Definitely go and don’t come back. Surrender your hayseed heart to the Big Apple. Don’t you read The New Yorker? Haven’t you seen Rent? It’s just like that. New York isn’t a place, it’s a state of mind. New York is the Spirit of Christmas – if you keep it in your heart, even in the Midwest you’re a New Yorker for life.

Seriously, I think you should just stay home and watch Manhattan.


Alien Others and Selves

Starting off the new year with some good old-fashioned American paranoia!

Via @5thWaveMovie

by E.L.

There is an episode of The Twilight Zone in which a normal American neighborhood is thrown into violent chaos by the appearance of a strange object in the sky. The fear that alien invaders might be masquerading as a human family causes neighbors to turn with suspicion on those they’ve known all their lives.

Like so many Twilight Zone episodes, the true monster here is Man. The lesson is that the enemy’s best weapon is the seed of paranoid doubt we harbor against those closest to us. It is a not-so-subtle commentary on McCarthyism’s hysterical campaign to root out the communist threat by encouraging citizens to denounce their friends and allies.

The communist, like the aliens in The Twilight Zone, is so dangerous precisely because its otherness cannot be easily recognized. Soviet sympathizers can look exactly like everybody else, and the possibility of their presence among us is so terrifying because it challenges our confidence in our own capacity for self-recognition. The identity of friends, spouses, teachers, and politicians cannot be trusted precisely because they look just like us. Familiarity itself becomes suspect as the mask of a dangerous otherness.

Continue reading “Alien Others and Selves”

Leaving Something Behind: Reading Socially Through Book Traces

E.L. documents her journey through the margins of one library’s books—thinking about reading as a social process, about building community, and about what we can learn from the scribbles left behind.

 By E.L.

Alderman library stacks at the University of Virginia

Follow Book Traces on Twitter @booktracesuva, on Tumblr, and on the official website.

I’ve been spending a lot of time in libraries lately. As a grad student and inveterate skimmer of books, this is not rare. But for the past six months, I’ve been working as a project intern for Book Traces, where I systematically inspect my university’s circulating book collection for evidence of how past handlers have used, modified, and engaged with their books.

Continue reading “Leaving Something Behind: Reading Socially Through Book Traces”

Acro Collective Bookshelf : November

acro bookshelf logo

Editor’s Note: Hey friends! I’m pleased to bring you our new feature, Bookshelf. Each month we’ll hear from Acro Collective creators on what they’re reading. For November, our creators delve into a diverse mix of texts. As we all head off into holiday season, remember to set aside some time for yourself—perhaps with one of these good reads? Continue reading “Acro Collective Bookshelf : November”

What We Mean When We Talk About Choice

…my point is that there is no easy choice between choice and social determination — that choice itself is not the solution to the oppressive pressures of racism and patriarchy because the choices we have (and the fact of choice at all) are constructed by the very systems we wish to use them to undermine.


Let me tell you something. My feminism doesn’t much care about Beyoncé. My heart may beat to the beat of “Partition,” but debates about the potential feminism of Yoncé’s lyrics, ass, or marriage leave me cold. Bey’s choice to make her body and sexuality central to her persona is held up against the fact that such displays are always filtered through white supremacist patriarchy. We can only ever think of her as fully in control of her performance, image and body, or totally and abjectly victim of a system that uses women’s bodies against each other. Her self-determination is always besieged by the fear that she might have been working for the male gaze all along. But no, we shudder, the male gaze is foiled and frustrated just so long as we can convince ourselves that this was Bey’s choice.


Choice, we pant fiercely. Choice will keep Beyoncé safe — choice will save us all.

Continue reading “What We Mean When We Talk About Choice”

Which Addams Family Misandrist Are You…?? (A Quiz)


Image via Sony Movie Channel

With the scent of pumpkin spice and school supplies in the air once more, I finally feel justified in offering a guide to the Addams women. Go rewatch Addams Family Values not only because it’s a case study in sequels that trump their originals, but also because it gives the world the misandrist triumvirate of Wednesday Addams, Morticia Addams and Debbie Jellinsky.

Continue reading “Which Addams Family Misandrist Are You…?? (A Quiz)”

Artists and their Muses: “Mistress America” review

Mistress America is about many things. It is a screwball comedy refracted through the Woody Allen hall of mirrors.  It is a study in the dynamics of desire and exploitation in female friendship. It is a biography of a muse according to the object of her inspiration. It is an account of the early days of college life just as the imperative to “discover yourself” feels simultaneously, paradoxically, crucial and passé. It is a portrait of the artist as a young co-ed. Continue reading “Artists and their Muses: “Mistress America” review”