Writers on Loving and Leaving New York

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

In 1967, Joan Didion wrote an essay called Goodbye to All That, on loving and leaving New York. Now, in Goodbye to All That: Writers on Loving and Leaving New York, 28 writers, including Ruth Curry, Meghan Daum, Sari Botton, and Emma Straub, take up Didion’s literary legacy by sharing their own stories of the allure of New York and the grief that comes when the city loses its magic.

Mia Dillon Reading "Goodbye to All That" on Selected Shorts

Mia Dillon’s reading of Didion’s “Goodbye to All That” was originally broadcast on SELECTED SHORTS, and is featured on Selected Shorts: Travel Tales; more information at 


Sari Botton, Ruth Curry, Meghan Daum and Emma Straub

Comments [32]

Am I the only one who was offended by the way Susan Orlean used the term "New York" and meant "Manhattan"?

If you think Manhattan is the only real New York City, you miss so much about what New York City really is.

I have no problem with transplants, as long as they commit to live here and aren't planning to be here only while they are young, with a plan to move somewhere else when they "grow up". I think there have been plenty of real New Yorkers who were born elsewhere. But at least know what the real New York is! It's not just a few blocks from The Battery up to 125th Street! A lot more goes into the real New York!

Oct. 26 2014 01:33 PM

Dear Thatgirl,
There are huge problems with American system relying on "charities/volunteering"
Among many others:
- it reinforces abuse of people. That's OK if we exploit people and throw them away. We'll then throw them our dirty smelly underwear through some charity and they, subhumans, will be eternally grateful. It isn't then surprising that some better structured countries make "philanthropy" illegal. Or at least they had it before ... they started to seriously Americanize themselves.
- volunteering makes many people unemployed. Well clearly I HAVE to say something which should be obvious, but it ... isn't.

Oct. 24 2013 04:16 PM

Well, thatgirl, thank you for proving my point.
Sorry to inform you, but believe it or not English isn't the only language in the world. I know this for sure, because English happens to be my 7th language (in order of acquisition). Can I suggest that you submit a sample of your extemporaneous writing in your 7th language for my evaluation. Chances are I know the language and I can assure you that I have all the qualifications, abilities and skills to judge competently.
dr anna (yes, a doctorate and some 3 1/2 masters).

Oct. 24 2013 02:55 PM
thatgirl from manhattan

Anna - Take your hands off the keyboard and stop spewing hateful nonsense in badly-worded form. Adjust that tinfoil hat and go for a walk. Try to resist the temptation to make others wrong for sport--you clearly don't have enough else occupying your attention and time.

Oct. 24 2013 12:19 PM

Bravo, Martha.

Oct. 24 2013 04:25 AM
Martha from La Luz, New Mexico

Oh Leonard...

As a loyal, devoted listener and long time member of WNYC, imagine my smirk when you pulled Alamogordo, New Mexico out of your hat today. Of course, you might not have imagined me - here in this boring little town listening to you. It was odd - before you said it I had this tingling feeling that Alamo was going to be your basis of comparison. I love New York City and have to defend it to all sorts of New Mexicans who of course have never stepped foot in the City and cannot imagine why anyone would want to live there. But while Alamogordo is boring - maybe the most boring town in all of this country - I love it here at 6800 feet in the canyon above Alamo. We are out here listening and some of us are pretty interesting even if we do live in a state where there is not one good hunk of cheese or a decent bagel. When I travel to New York City I wake here in La Luz and fall asleep on 77th street in my daughter's apartment. It thrills me how amazingly varied this world of mine is. How could I ever live here? Because New York City is still there welcoming me when I set foot there. One of my grandfather's was born here in La Luz, New Mexico and my other grew up on President Street in Brooklyn.

Oct. 24 2013 12:27 AM

You don't know how barbaric this "volunteering to help the unfortunate is."
Again, don't rob, don't steal, don't murder, don't manipulate lawmakers to your advantage, don't corrupt the politicians, etc. and there will be no need for "volunteering."

Oct. 23 2013 08:57 PM

"Plenty of us live quiet enough/contemplative lives, are friendly with our neighbors and volunteer to help out the unfortunate."
Well, clearly you are not one of the quiet and contemplative. Otherwise you wouldn't use this corporate, aggressive, marching zombies' vocabulary such as "volunteer to help the unfortunate." First don't create the unfortunate. Then there will be no need to help your victims. See never thought of that. Thinking isn't your thing.
Ah, I can assure you that I'll live where I choose too.

Oct. 23 2013 08:50 PM
thatgirl from manhattan

Anna - There must be some quiet little suburb from which you can register all these complaints. It really does sound like you can't live here without being hypercritical about your fellow citizens, which is, actually, not a merit of the average New Yorker. Plenty of us live quiet enough/contemplative lives, are friendly with our neighbors and volunteer to help out the unfortunate. We don't pass the time pointing outward at others' behavior. Find another place to live, please; there are plenty who'd be very happy to occupy your space.

Oct. 23 2013 07:14 PM

OK, there seems to be an agreement that New Yorkers are parochial/provincial.
I think I would add another observation - it looks like New Yorkers are absolutely empty (empty vessels) who need some injection of "culture" and other nonsense to finish the day. The concepts such as reflection, quiet contemplation, quiet and DECENT private lives are totally unknown - go, go, go and grab something or you'll ... die.

Oct. 23 2013 07:07 PM
thatgirl from manhattan

All of you--please stop referring to New York as "that boyfriend (you) just can't leave." Since Bushnell, it's been beaten into non-meaning.

Besides, New York was just never that into you.

Oct. 23 2013 04:35 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Robert, you need to listen better. Leonard wasn't giving his own opinion but the hypothetical opinion of some other New Yorkers & ex-New Yorkers.

And anna, you think *most* New Yorkers are "provincial and primitively pretentious," you haven't met enough different New Yorkers.

Oct. 23 2013 01:18 PM
genejoke from Brooklyn

How about Goodbye to Vocal Fryyyyy?

Oct. 23 2013 12:53 PM
Rebecca from Manahttan

I left New York for about 6 months a few years ago after living here for 12 years. I came back because I missed it so much, my friends, the history, the possibilities around every corner. I was having a perfectly good life upstate. A friend described my relationship with the city as is it were a boyfriend that I couldn't leave. We were together for years, broke up for awhile and got back together. It's not the worst relationship, but maybe I'll never be quite as happy here as I could be somewhere else.

Oct. 23 2013 12:51 PM

i would also say, ny is the best city in the world, until you travel internationally. then you realize that london, berlin, paris, rome, milan, tokyo, mexico city, etc all are awesome too. they just dont have the "songs" about them to get you warm and fuzzy at a bar as you drink. Prague is awesome. But i guess a transplant from nebraska who never traveled would see nyc as the greatest city on earth.

Oct. 23 2013 12:46 PM
Amy from Manhattan

1. I can think of reasons to justify having only women writers on many topics, but loving & leaving NYC isn't 1 of them. Why restrict the writers in this book to women?

2. When I moved here in 1980 (initially to Brooklyn), I saw people wearing T-shirts that said "Naturalized New Yorker." I liked that concept--I don't see any reason you'd have to grow up here to call yourself a New Yorker.

Oct. 23 2013 12:46 PM
thatgirl from manhattan

Oh honey, you're plenty infantilized by thinking this "collection" is book-worthy!

"The provinces?"

Oct. 23 2013 12:45 PM

the mythology of NYC is for the starry eyed transplant. locals from the city, ct and nj, know its a business mecca.

Oct. 23 2013 12:44 PM

more transplants writing about "being a new yorker" and "the city". as someone one born and bred in central nj, we laugh at these transplants. yes, everyone comes from someone else. but its always those from iowa or nebraska or some other land locked rural state that runs their mouth about "being a new yorker"... please.

Oct. 23 2013 12:43 PM
ginberb from nyc

and why are all the writers in this book women?and does that have anything to do with the treatment of the subject matter?

Oct. 23 2013 12:42 PM

This mythology of NYC is just silly. It's a phase like puberty.

Oct. 23 2013 12:42 PM

Stella, I had an interesting experience.
Two weeks ago, I met on a hike (BTW, the hiking clubs remain the most bigoted places in New York) an elderly woman who insisted (please sit down comfortably) that New York must be a city of the RICH (Wall Street, "culture, "etc.). All others can go somewhere else - Brooklyn, Queens. It's the first time I heard an open statement of intent. And yes, at a certain moment she shouted: "I was born in Manhattan." Yes, clearly a barbarian.
BTW, I am not American born. Being a city person, I like New York as I would probably like many other cities in the world. I do view most New Yorkers as provincial and primitively pretentious. Interestingly, on another walk, I met a young and attractive woman from some south West who views the New Yorkers the same way.
BTW, not single time the word "ethics" was pronounce during the show.

Oct. 23 2013 12:39 PM
Lori from Manhattan

I agree - you can't compare this to any other city. I compare NYC to the bad boy lover you can't leave - high highs, and low lows. Addictive and maddening.

Oct. 23 2013 12:39 PM
thatgirl from manhattan

Thank jah it's Pledge Week--relief from this silly "book" and its authors. Or does the editor call herself a "curator?"

Oct. 23 2013 12:29 PM
Miscellaneous from NYC

I was actually born in Manhattan, grew up upstate, lived in a few different places and now am living in NYC. It's really time for me to move, but I just cannot tear myself away. There's so much in New York that can't be found elsewhere - although I have lived elsewhere and found interesting things there - but I think that I am just drawn to the city of my birth. Also, after all is said and done, there is actually nothing like seeing Lady Liberty from the train windows on my daily commute.

Funny story: I was doing some part time work with a couple of Indian nationals a few years ago in an office in Penn Plaza. One day, one of them asked me where I was from because "you have an accent." I looked at him as if he were crazy and said, "I was born 3 miles from here. I don't have an accent. YOU have an accent!"

Oct. 23 2013 12:29 PM
Stella from Downtown

Just tuned in. Emma Straub doesn't deserve to call herself a "New Yorker." A true New Yorker knows that there are no residence requirements: anyone can be a New Yorker, provided they thrive on diversity and arrive with an open mind and an open heart. The geography of the heart determines who you are...

Oct. 23 2013 12:22 PM
Robert from NYC

I agree with the guest who was born here as I was and feel you can't really call yourself a New Yorker unless you're born here. Don't let it go, hold onto it. It's true. As a friend from North Dakota pointed out to me a very long time ago, New Yorkers are so provincial. Just listen as Leonard ask himself how can anyone live in that New Mexico place he mentioned, "it's so boring!" Well maybe not to everyone born there, Leonard. You are a snobbish and provincial New Yorker. You know very little about elsewhere as well traveled as you may be.

Oct. 23 2013 12:22 PM
genejoke from Brooklyn

Not running into anyone she knows at a party would be "dreamy" to her. Narcissistic biddy.

Oct. 23 2013 12:19 PM
Clif from Manhattan

FYI: nothing is free. Yes, by itself, a walk in the park is free. Unless you live within walking distance from a park then you have to get there via subway or car.

But, I too have fallen out of love with NYC. I think that the socio-political climate here is just too much. People's priorities are very out of order. In general, a lot of people I see are obsessed with very petty things and have sacrificed their voice in a Democracy for gadgets and other sorts of meaningless distractions.

Oct. 23 2013 12:17 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

As a young, Jewish immigrant kid, going into "the city" (Manhattan) back in the '50s and early '60s was an "event." When we finally got our cars, going into "the city" to go to the discos and bars to "get girls" or just to take in the razzle-dazzle was a big deal. It's good to be young in New York.

Oct. 23 2013 12:16 PM
thatgirl from manhattan

Please. We've already had a segment on this overrated "book," which really should have been a series of essays on a blog or in a magazine.

None of these writers lived here very long/made a life here the way Didion did--or the way many of us still do. They pay no homage to the original essay, but rather, simply, talk over her.

You're waiting to make lots of money in Hudson, L.A. (or whereever) and then you'll move back here?

Stay where you are, please. We have enough wealth-obsessed aspirationals here.

Oct. 23 2013 12:09 PM

There is a certain privileged solipsism that has crept into contemporary American writing, a sort of confessional, introspective style that often (although not always) fails to translate into excellent literature. Like any love affair of significance, infatuation cedes eventually to disillusionment; the point is in how one tells the story.

A native of Brooklyn, H. Miller hated the place, referring to it as 'that old sh*thole New York'. As a lifelong expat, Bowles loved 'his' NYC, but expressed contempt for the United States and subsequently stayed away from both for the majority of his life.

Personally, as a native who has lived abroad for a decade, NYC tends towards parochialism just like other major cities (despite the contradiction of their stunning diversity). There is uniformity: triumphalism of the newly arrived and assimilated and the relentless self-importance of the natives (myself included!). And then there is everyone else just hanging on for dear life.

New York City will drive you crazy and make you miserable at times, but you put with it because of the food and the museums and the music and the history until the food doesn't taste quite as sweet and it costs $25 to look at a few Pollocks and you are paying most of your wages on rent and you realize that the myths of NYC won't fix the broken heating or quiet the noisy neighbors or pay your utilities or keep you cool in the summer.

Capote commented that sexual relationships involve editorializing. We add and subtract bits and pieces in order to construct the perfect lover until the lover no longer appears perfect. We do the same with cities like New York. Invariably, they disappoint; people change and move on.

However, is the current anthology merely editorializing or 'excellent writing'? If the latter, then why?

Oct. 23 2013 12:04 PM

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