Compass American Guides: Manhattan, 4th Edition (Full-color Travel Guide)

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9780676904956: Compass American Guides: Manhattan, 4th Edition (Full-color Travel Guide)

Created by local writers and photographers, Compass American Guides are the ultimate insider's guides, providing in-depth coverage of the history, culture and character of America's most spectacular destinations. Compass Manhattan covers everything there is to see and do -- plus gorgeous full-color photographs; a wealth of archival images; topical essays and literary extracts; detailed color maps; and capsule reviews of hotels and restaurants. These insider guides are perfect for new and longtime residents as well as vacationers who want a deep understanding of Manhattan.

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The island of Manhattan is a little more than 22 square miles in area, narrow and irregular, posted at one of the greatest natural harbors on earth, and surrounded on all sides by great rivers and treacherous tidal straits.
The shape of it reminds people of a fish. "New York City is made up of five boroughs," states a Depression-era guide, "four of which -- Brooklyn, Queens, Richmond, the Bronx -- compose like crinkled lily pads about the basking trout of Manhattan." The architect Le Corbusier called the island "great unfilleted sole spread out on a rock." A more contemporary account puts Manhattan in the harbor "like a smelt in a pan."
New York City is famously uncontainable, an unnamable  place with surfeit of names. It has its physical reality, beside one of the greatest natural harbors on earth, astride a treacherous tidal strait, braced by a great river. But more than any other city in the world -- Paris may come close -- New York has its own imaginative reality, its place in the collective dream of humankind.
"The only true metropolis," novelist Thomas Mann called it, but New York City wears its mantle lightly. Ask a hundred New Yorkers on the street if the city is "the capital of the world": fifty of them will walk right past you, one will attempt to talk you out of your wallet, and you'll get forty or so gesticulating, vituperative, arrogantly unassailable opinions, ranging from "I think that's a boutique in Times Square," "Who cares?" to frothing rants against the United Nations. But at least one New Yorker will have the true answer: "Where else?"
New York City sprawls across five boroughs, each with its own county-level government: Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Staten Island (Richmond). Over 7 million residents populate an area of a little over 300 square miles, and additional millions flood in and out of the city each day as commuters.
The original Algonquian inhabitants of the area considered the ground serviceable but nothing special. They used the place chiefly as a summer resort, withdrawing inland when the winter winds whipped down the Hudson or off the ocean. Their mythology invoked a more particular idea of paradise, which they located somewhere near the modern-day environs of Trenton, New Jersey.
It has been less than 400 years, really, since Manhattan grew from a windswept Algonquian oystering station into the most densely populated place in America. On a purely physical level, the transformation has been extraordinary, a testimony to the almost insane industry of the island's inhabitants. The "place of hills" was leveled, graded, plumbed, bricked over, bored into, and erected upon until it resembled the monstrous hive of a race of hyperactive worker bees.
Yet that's only half the story. There was another transformation afoot, too, one that is harder to place precisely in time and space. As it grew, Manhattan somehow managed to assemble itself from more than just paving stones and granite blocks and steel girders. Dreams, hopes, and ambitions seemed to mark the place.
Dreams of Manhattan came not only from those who lived here, but from those who only imagined the place. In the opening of his 1927 novel Amerika, Kafka described the Statue of Liberty without ever having seen it. The island floated in the world's imagination like some golden fantasy. It came to symbolize all that is high and         ne about the American experience, and much that is terrible.
This book covers the physical reality of Manhattan, the realm that can be reproduced on a map and talked about in terms of places to go and things to do. We also hope to communicate a little of the meta-Manhattan, too, both good and bad, the ectoplasmic island of people's dreams and the "terrible Jerusalem of the New World," as H. L. Mencken called it.
As overpowering as brick-and-stone Manhattan can be, its mythology has the paradoxical effect of grounding it, keeping it human. "My city!" Walt Whitman apostrophized. For all its pomp and circumstance as a cultural capital, as a center for commerce, fashion, the arts, sports, and tourism, it is still possible for an individual to feel possessive towards it.
There is a secret to approaching the place. Manhattan the Magnificent -- the city of Broadway, of Fifth Avenue, of the Financial District -- is almost too large and overpowering to love. Admire, yes; respect, certainly, with perhaps an occasional shudder of outright astonishment. People can't live on the whole island at once, so they have broken it down into a series of speci        c villages, which are more manageable, more livable, and, yes, more lovable than the larger whole.
Manhattan is the "global village," in Marshall McLuhan's original sense of a world brought close and made accessible. It is global in its cultural, commercial, and symbolic scope. It is global because of its amazing collection of peoples, gathered from every nation on the globe.
At the same time, Manhattan is a village, or rather, as Alistair Cooke says, "the greatest collection of villages in the world." The way for a visitor to proceed, then -- the way to proceed for anyone who wants to understand this amazing city -- is to approach Manhattan the way people who live here do, neighborhood by neighborhood. "We'll have Manhattan," crooned Rodgers and Hart, and the way to have it is not all at once, but in small, manageable bites.
The great luxury that Manhattan extends to everyone is that of nearly inexhaustible choice. Most cities say, "Here's what we have." Manhattan asks, "What would you like?"

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