New York JournalPrint
By William Deresiewicz
August 15, 2011
Tuesday, 7 P.M. I head for Lincoln Center from the midtown hotel where I’m staying for my book tour. Everywhere a river of social information rushes towards me. Central Park South. A jowly bald banker, face centered by a stogie, waits at a light. A Japanese businessman issues edicts to his smartphone from the awning of a parkfront hotel. At the curb, three young Eurostuds, heavy on the denim, spark smokes and lay plans for the night. The day is being put to bed; the hour of desire approaches. I cross the street. A dealer leans against the low stone wall, waiting for trade. A carriage horse bends to her spill of oats. Columbus Circle. Three skinny, tall, white white white guys in short shorts and red sockless trainers run through the crisscrossing crowd. A young business slick glides down the subway stairs–pale purple shirt, dark purple tie, fedora pulled low on his forehead, the Don Draper look. Tourists, secretaries, theatergoers: the classes mixing oblivious, each face a frozen history.
Where is the Balzac to sing this human comedy, tragedy, epic–the Dickens? Richard Price, perhaps, but surely there is more and better to be done. One need but dip one’s pail to draw up plots, minnows, sharks–volumes to make Freedom feel feeble, constrained. A vast work, a vast world and joy awaits.
A quarter past midnight. Back at my hotel after the ballet and drinks with an old friend. I go up to my room, then come back down for a last snack. On 2, a gorgeous young black woman enters the elevator. Her expression is seamless. She wears high heels and a dress that looks like a slip. She gets off, clicks to the dark of the bar, sidles onto a stool beside a young businessman. I cross the street to the hotdog stand. The old man wrapped against the misting rain talks gruff Slavic into a cell phone. “Mustard sauerkraut?” I nod. “Two dollar.” I squeak through the meal, looking up at the glass blocks lost in fog. A cop saunters by. Time for sleep.
William Deresiewicz is an essayist and critic. His book Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life is based in part on his essays “The Disadvantages of an Elite Education” and “Solitude and Leadership.” To read all the posts from his weekly blog, “All Points,” click here. He is a contributing editor of the magazine.