Lit Happens

A year after Chicago’s librarians and booksellers chose To Kill a Mockingbird as the book to bring the city together, a similar group of literary busybodies has taken up the cause in New York. But the front-runner, Chang-rae Lee’s Native Speaker, seems unlikely to unite the committee (one faction is vying for James McBride’s The Color of Water), let alone a city of 8 million. We asked New York’s literati, “What book should we all read at the same time?”

Jonathan Franzen:
The House of Mirth, by Edith Wharton, a killer novel capable of getting the city’s population weeping as one.”

Tom Wolfe:
Sister Carrie, by Theodore Dreiser, the first great American novel of the city.”

Norman Mailer:
U.S.A., by John Dos Passos.”

Susan Sontag:
Sleepless Nights, by Elizabeth Hardwick, a book of dreams and memories, both true and false, about coming to New York from Kentucky, choosing New York, sticking with New York.”

Chip McGrath:
“Chang-rae Lee is a very good friend of mine, so if you want a better book than Native Speaker, I’d say A Gesture Life, his other book.”

Jimmy Breslin:
The Color of Water is a piece of shit. Librarians are the nicest people we have, but why don’t they leave us alone?”

Fran Lebowitz:
“The only book that would turn New York into a giant book club is a checkbook!”

Lit Happens