Saturday, August 25, 2018

Secret New York - An Unusual Guide: Local Guides by Local People Paperback – July 17, 2012 by T.M. Rives (Jonglez Publishing)

The title is apt - this is truly an unusual guide. It contains a wealth of information about unusual or relatively unknown sites in the great metropolis that is New York City. Undeniably, here are some places which this reviewer did already know; but more importantly, here are vast numbers of places which were totally unknown to him. It is a wee bit Manhattan-centric; but then, so are most guidebooks. The book should be required reading for those who want to see New York properly, and really understand what the City is all about (along with many other books!).

The book is arranged so that each odd-numbered page has the text about the site, while the preceding even-numbered page has a color picture. Many of the places are hard-to-notice details in an otherwise well-known building, museum or statue. Invariably there will be places which hold little interest for some - the "Kymaerica Plaque" in the East Village, which "commemorates" an "event" which "occurred" in "another dimension," is hardly a must-see site for people with an interest in history, architecture, art, religions, sociology, anthropology, or other conventional obsessions! In fact, this "plaque" itself as much "in another dimension" as the event that it "commemorates" - even the very building, in whose stairwell it allegedly is located, is nonexistent, as there is no 83 Avenue A (81 and 85 are next-door neighbors). But a reader who overlooks this nonsensical mumbo-jumbo will find a huge number of fascinating entries, many of which, at least with this reviewer, provoked constant trips to the computer to check things on the Internet. Even so, in a city like New York, there are definitely lots more places to cover!

The one gripe for this reviewer is on page 411. As a proud Jew, this reviewer feels offended by the condescending remarks about the Jewish religion's rules for Shabbos (the Sabbath); this is especially since the book contains no condescending remarks about Christianity, Hinduism or even Islam, all of which have places of worship referenced. The eruv, a symbolic fence that allows religiously observant Jews to carry objects outside their private home on Shabbos, is totally unobtrusive and unnoticeable even to those who search for it. The text implies that non-Jews are annoyed by this, when, in fact, apart from anti-Semites, the only ones who are annoyed are some anti-religious Jews, who often incite the anti-Semites against the Jews. This entry should be deleted in the next edition, because the eruv is totally lacking in interest and can virtually not even be seen. Mind you, this is not an accusation of anti-Semitism; the book references three other Jewish sites - the Kehila Kedosha Jenina Synagogue in the Lower East Side (page 75), the old Shearith Israel Cemetery in Lower Manhattan (page 85) and 770 Eastern Parkway (the world headquarters of Chabad/Lubavitch Hassidim) in Brooklyn's Crown Heights (page 407) - with no complaints from this reviewer.

Despite this glitch, this book is absolutely essential for those who desire to see New York better than just the standard tourist sites.

No comments:

Post a Comment