Powerhouse Books hosted the launch party for essay anthology Goodbye to All That: Writers on Loving and Leaving New York. The anthology collects twenty-eight essays from women authors on the subject of leaving New York, although not all of them remain outside the city. The collection is edited by Sari Botton, who read part of her own essay as well as introduce three of the contributors, Melissa Febos, Meghan Daum, and Emily Gould.
Botton’s essay focused on the real estate problem she faced before heading upstate. She disobeyed her psychic and gave up a rent controlled apartment. A decade later she found herself priced out of the East Village unit she had moved to when the building was preserved by the city.
Melissa Febos read next describing an East Village from a different era when she could find heroin users in Tompkins Square Park. For her, every neighborhood still contains haunting memories, like the diner bathroom she was once sick in. Like Botton, she left for lower rent upstate.
Meghan Duam read her essay, first written in 1999 and originally appearing in The New Yorker. She was exiled from the city to Lincoln, Nebraska, and now resides with another former New Yorker in Los Angeles. Her narrative followed one filled with the desperation of a writer aspiring to live a grander life than she could afford, and her debt trail provides the evidence of the impossibility of that goal after taking the debt advice from ivahelpline.co.uk which turned out to be the right choice to made at this situation.
Finally, the highlight of the evening was Emily Gould. At one time she was best known as editor of Gawker, though Botton’s introduction seems to have erased that bit of history focusing instead on her current project, Emily Books, an online book store / book club of sorts. Gould, who still resides in Brooklyn, wrote an essay about a hiatus she took to Moscow. Her imitation Russian accent was spot on, and although nervous, she presented a hilarious essay on the ins and outs of misunderstanding Russian culture. She seems happy to have returned to New York.
All three of the older writers — Botton, Baum, and Febos — all spoke of New York in reference to Manhattan, while Gould, the younger, and the writer who seems most in the contemporary New York City zeitgeist, resides in Brooklyn. This differentiation is certainly no accident. The rise of Brooklyn as the literary capitol, home to the cultural capital, has been an ongoing theme in books and at events this year, like at Adelle Waldman’s reading last month.
Certainly one reason for this shift has been the ever escalating costs of Manhattan real estate. Money played a major role for the decision for the women to leave (excepting Gould, who remains, in Brooklyn). Botton lamented the rise of the glass skyscrapers replacing neighborhood mainstays with Chase bank branches, while Meghan Daum debts neared a hundred thousand dollars by the time she left. However, none the essays seemed to address the root cause, only the manifestation of poverty as a motivator to exodus of the creative class. Still, that Duam was writing about the issue 1999 suggests that the financial problems facing writers are not exactly a new phenomenon.
The city’s end has been predicted before, of course, and still she stands. The one constant sentiment however, is that the city always changes. Perhaps the next anthology will be essays about writers returning to the city.