Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Week 7: State - New York

To summarise the state of New York without stating the obvious is no easy task, and so it goes without saying that New York State is of course synonymous with New York City, the most populous city in the United States (over 8 million people), home to the largest central business district in the United States (Midtown Manhattan), the largest stock exchange in the world (The New York Stock Exchange), the most visited tourist attraction in the United States (Time Square), and more high-rise buildings and skyscrapers than any other city in the country (and second in the world behind Hong Kong), including most famously the Empire State Building. Between 1892 and 1954 more than 12 million immigrants passed through Ellis Island, the main entrypoint to the country, just north of Liberty Island where the Statue of Liberty stands (a gift from France to mark the Centennial of the American Declaration of Independence), and today New York is home to the largest African American population and the second largest Asian American population in the United States. Most recently the city was the main site of the September 11, 2001 attacks, when nearly 3,000 people died in the destruction of the World Trade Center. The state itself is the nation's third most populous state with over 19 million people, though in contrast with New York City the vast majority of the state is dominated by a rural landscape, with the first state park in the United States established at Niagara Falls in 1885. New York State is known as The Empire State, and the state capital is Albany.

There have been more films set in New York than possibly any other city in the United States (at least outside of California), and as result there are far too many to list here, but to break it down by area we've seen films set in The Bronx (Marty, A Bronx Tale, Summer of Sam), Brooklyn (Saturday Night Fever, Do The Right Thing, Dog Day Afternoon), Manhattan (Wall Street, The Apartment, Manhattan, Taxi Driver, West Side Story, Gangs of New York), Queens (Coming to America, Spider-Man), and outside of the city Long Island (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Amityville Horror) and Buffalo (Buffalo '66, Bruce Almighty) amongst many others. The majority of the films of Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, Spike Lee and the late Sidney Lumet have been set in the city of New York. The sitcom Friends, which followed a group of six Manhattan-ites, was one of the most popular TV shows of the 1990s.

Books set in New York not eligible as I've already read them include The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger and American Psycho by Bret Eaton Ellis. Other famous books set in New York include The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton, The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett, The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, Last Exit to Brooklyn by Hubert Selby, The Godfather by Mario Puzo, and The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe amongst many others I don't have the space to list. But once again, rather predictably, I've gone for the shortest option.

Yes I am aware that Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote is technically a novella, but I never ruled out inclusion of this shorter form of fiction. First published in 1958 and set in the early 1940s in Manhattan’s upper east side, the book was famously adapted into a 1961 film adaptation starring Audrey Hepburn, which updates the setting to the present. I only watched the film for the first time last year and found it to be horribly dated, especially in Mickey Rooney’s painfully racist portrayal of Holly Golightly’s Japanese landlord Mr Yunioshi. I’m hoping the book will have more of a timeless quality to it.

Review to follow this week...

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