In the City by Colette Brooks
Random Acts of Awareness

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An award-winning kaleidoscope of a book that "shocks and stirs the urban heart," capturing city life on the edge of the twenty-first century.

What kind of person is a city person?

This is a question of increasing importance, Colette Brooks suggests, as the city begins to spread, inexorably, into the furthest reaches of the modern mind. One possibility: a city person is someone "who doesn't feel the need to finish a jigsaw puzzle, who relishes jagged edges and orphaned curves, stray bits of data, stories parsed from sentences half overheard on the streets."

Someone who is willing, sometimes eager, to immerse herself in mystery.

Winner of the PEN/Jerard Fund Award, In the City is an idiosyncratic, lyrical, edgy exploration of the urban experience. This daring, unpredictable work breathes new life into the nonfiction form. Chronicling the often haphazard lives of city dwellers and cities themselves, In the City is a window into the urban psyche.

An unnamed narrator roams the streets of an unnamed city, practicing "random acts of awareness" as she gathers disjointed pieces of the puzzle. She is sometimes in a city that seems to be New York, and sometimes in cities halfway around the world. In her wanderings she collects bits of stories, some taken from the headlines, some from the streets, some from the distant past.

She studies criminals, innocent bystanders, commuters; a renowned painter who fled to the country; a bomber who sends unsuspecting city dwellers lethal packages marked "personal"; a blind, deaf woman who loves to ride the subway; a young cabdriver who keeps an open dictionary at his side as he drives, struggling to learn a strange language; a perplexed explorer who finds himself, against all expectation, stranded at the very edge of the earth.

All of these people, she discovers, are city people, whether they know it yet or not.

Some will flourish, others will be lost, victims of chance and mischance: the woman who drinks by herself in a brownstone apartment; the ancient city dwellers who couldn't outrun fire or flood; the children whose faces end up on posters on a wall. Those who survive learn, sooner or later, that everyone keeps company with ghosts who walk alongside.

In the City shows us that the city is a place where past and present are commingled, where questions rarely have answers, where danger, difficulty, and exhilaration are interwoven in ways we can hardly begin to explain.

Welcome to the city, the place where all contrary indications hold true.

About Colette Brooks

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Colette Brooks is the author of In the City: Random Acts of Awareness, which won the PEN/Jerard Fund Award. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The New Republic, Partisan Review, and elsewhere. She lives in New York City.
Published June 17, 2003 by W. W. Norton & Company. 128 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Education & Reference, Literature & Fiction, Political & Social Sciences. Non-fiction

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Nicely captured is the peculiar mix of bravado and anxiety that New Yorkers experience: even if “we obligingly offer world-class terrorists an easy target, we will probably fall, in the end, from within, on that day when all the worn buildings and bridges and tunnels collapse together.” The work ...

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The New York Times

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Sanderson, after seeing his exhibition, “Mannahatta/Manhattan: A Natural History of New York City” at the Museum of the City of New York, I begin to see the city the way the show suggests, the way Mr. Sanderson has come to view it after nearly a decade of historical exploration and computer simu...

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Publishers Weekly

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Readers looking for recent thoughts on New York street life and history are best off with Thomas Beller's edited collection New York: Before and After (Forecasts, Jan. 21) or Kenneth L.

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