Well, if Dorothy Parker gets a New York, so too should everybody else! Here’s one man’s version — and it happens to be an expert one. For many years, downtown performer/playwright Noah Diamond (best known for his left-wing political revues and his Groucho Marx impersonations) worked as a New York City tour guide on one of those double decker buses. A few years ago, he merged his two careers and came up with a theatre piece (closer to performance art actually) that blends a historical tour of New York with his own autobiographical experiences as a tour guide. Subsequently, he turned it into a book, and a copy just magically fell into my hands.
And it’s terrific! It covers the spine of all the major events of the last four centuries with a great deal of humor and obvious love for this complex, often self-contradictory town (a town of radicals AND Wall Street; of preservationists AND real estate developers, etc etc). This is a man who has absorbed both the lore (and the zeal for it) from the likes of Mike Wallace and Kenneth T. Jackson. Along the way he gets off many quips — I laughed out loud, or was tempted to, several times. Even some of the footnotes are humorous.
My one criticism (and it really is a positive one) is that I wanted a lot more! Obviously, this book’s 83 pages are about as long as you could make a theatre piece. But, as a book, it could be greatly expanded. I have little doubt the voluble Diamond could keep the meter running for a journey two or three times this long. I was able to read 400 Years in a New York minute. And, actually, in this town of busy, busy people, that’s undoubtedly a selling point. This little book would make a terrific gift for the Apple-phile in your life. To avoid the crowds on Black Friday, buy the book here.