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    New York in Quotes

    "Each man reads his own meaning into New York" - Meyer Berger

    what they say about New YorkFrom the rich, the famous and the literary comes this abstract canvas of soundbites, classic quotes and witticisms.

    Here you'll find writers, historians, architects, playwrights, critics and celebrities who, traveling through the streets of New York, once paused to paint their own New York in its bright colors - and dark shadows.

    New York can be, in the words of Alistair Cooke - "the biggest collection of villages in the world" - or as Ralph Waldo Emerson once described it, "...a sucked orange."

    Decide on your own favorites from our collection of quotes about New York, New York ...


    • I think you know that when an American stays away from New York too long something happens to him. Perhaps he becomes a little provincial, a little dead and afraid. Sherwood Anderson

    • The much heaves and palpitates. It is multidirectional and has a mayor. Donald Barthelme

    • I think New York is not the cultural center of America, but the business and administrative center of American culture. Saul Bellow

    • Each man reads his own meaning into New York. Meyer Berger

    • Everybody ought to have a lower East Side in their life. Irving Berlin

    • A great many people go after success simply for the shiny prizes it brings…And nowhere is it pursued more ardently than in the city of New York. Stephen Birmingham

    East Side, West Side, all around the town,
    The tots sang "Ring-a-rosie," "London Bridge is falling Down";
    Boys and Girls together, me and Mamie O'Rorke,
    Tripped the light fantastic on the sidewalks of New York.
    James W. Blake (1894)

    • If you live in New York, even if you're Catholic, you're Jewish. Lennie Bruce

    • As for New York City, it is a place apart. There is not its match in any other country in the world.
    Pearl S. Buck

    • I am just coming out of five years of night, and this orgy of violent lights gives me for the first time the impression of a new continent. An enormous, 50-foot high Camel billboard : a GI with his mouth wide open blows enormous puffs of real smoke. So much bad taste hardly seems imaginable. Albert Camus (1946)

    • Sometimes, from beyond the skycrapers, the cry of a tugboat finds you in your insomnia, and you remember that this desert of iron and cement is an island. Albert Camus

    • The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum… is a war between architecture and painting in which both come out badly maimed. John Canaday

    • New York is the only real city-city. Truman Capote

    • When I had a look at the lights of Broadway by night, I said to my American friends : "What a glorious garden of wonders this would be, to any who was lucky enough to be unable to read." G. K. Chesterton

    • That sinister Stonehenge of economic man, Rockefeller Center. Cyril Connolly

    • New York is the biggest collection of villages in the world. Alistair Cooke

    • First New York was a sort of provincial capital, bigger and richer than Manchester or Marseilles, but not much different in its essential spirit. Then, after the war, it became one among half a dozen world cities. Today it has the appearance of standing alone, as the center of culture in the part of the world that still tries to be civilized. Malcolm Cowley

    • A bulger of a place it is. The number of the ships beat me all hollow, and looked for all the world like a big clearing in the West, with the dead trees all standing. Davy Crockett (1835)

    • She has become a wicked and wild bitch in her old age has Manhattan, but there is still no sensation in the world quite like walking her sidewalks. Great surges of energy sweep all around you; the air fizzes like champagne, while always there is a nervous edge of fear and whispered distant promises of sudden violence. Tom Davies (1979)

    • There is something in the New York air that makes sleep useless. Simone De Beauvoir

    "New York is a sucked orange."

    Ralph Waldo Emerson


    • The thing that impressed me then as now about New York… was the sharp, and at the same time immense, contrast it showed between the dull and the shrewd, the strong and the weak, the rich and the poor, the wise and the ignorant… the strong, or those who ultimately dominated, were so very strong, and the weak so very, very weak - and so very, very many. Theodore Dreiser

    • New York is at once cosmopolitan and parochial, a compendium of sentimental certainties. It is in fact the most sentimental of the world's great cities - in its self-congratulation a kind of San Francisco of the East. John Gregory Dunne

    • New York is a sucked orange. Ralph Waldo Emerson

    • I'm going to show you the real New York - witty, smart, and international - like any metropolis. Tell me this: where in Europe can you find old Hungary, old Russia, old France, old Italy? In Europe you're trying to copy America, you're almost American. But here you'll find Europeans who immigrated a hundred years ago - and we haven't spoiled them. Oh, Gio! You must see why I love New York. Because the whole world's in New York…. Oriana Fallaci

    • Over the great bridge, with sunlight through the girders making a constant flicker upon the moving cars, with the city rising up across the river in white heaps and sugar lumps all built with a wish out of non-olfactory money. The city seen for the first time, in its first wild promise of all the mystery and the beauty in the world. F. Scott Fitzgerald

    • I carry the place around the world the world in my heart but sometimes I try to shake it off in my dreams. F. Scott Fitzgerald

    • New York is large, glamorous, easy-going, kindly and incurious, but above all it is a crucible - because it is large enough to be incurious. Ford Madox Ford

    • New York is a different country. Maybe it ought to have a separate government. Everybody thinks differently, they just don't know what the hell the rest of the United States is. Henry Ford

    • New York remains what it has always been : a city of ebb and flow, a city of constant shifts of population and economics, a city of virtually no rest. It is harsh, dirty, and dangerous, it is whimsical and fanciful, it is beautiful and soaring - it is not one or another of these things but all of them, all at once, and to fail to accept this paradox is to deny the reality of city existence. Paul Goldberger

    • I remember how often some of us walked out of the darkness of the Lower East Side and into the brilliant sunlight of Washington Square. Harry Golden

    • New York is hard, cynical, ruthless, even beyond other cities. From their early repression its children emerge sophisticated, both stunted and overdeveloped, perverted, premature, forced by the artificiality of their environment. Ernest Gruening

    • New York city, the incomparable, the brilliant star city of cities, the forty-ninth state, a law unto itself, the Cyclopean Paradox, the inferno with no-out-of bounds, the supreme expression of both the miseries and the splendors of contemporary civilization, the Macedonia of the United States. It meets the most severe test that may be applied to definition of a metropolis - it stays up all night. But also it becomes a small town when it rains. John Gunther

    • New York is notoriously the largest and least-loved of any of our great cities. Why should it be loved as a city? It is never the same city for a dozen years altogether. A man born in New York forty years ago finds nothing, absolutely nothing, of the New York he knew. If he chances to stumble upon a few old houses not yet leveled, he is fortunate. But the landmarks, the objects which marked the city to him, as a city, are gone. Harper's (1856)

    • The lusts of the flesh can be gratified anywhere; it is not this sort of license that distinguishes New York. It is rather, a lust of the total ego for recognition, even for eminence. More than elsewhere, everybody here wants to be somebody. Sydney J. Harris

    • It's a town you come to for a short time. Ernest Hemingway

    • It's a fickle town, a tough town. They getcha, boy. They don't let you escape with minor scratches and bruises. They put scars on you here. Reggie Jackson

    • New York is appalling, fantastically charmless and elaborately dire. Henry James

    • It is altogether an extraordinary growing, swarming, glittering, pushing, chattering, good-natured, cosmopolitan place, and perhaps in some ways the best imitation of Paris that can be found (with a great originality of its own). Henry James

    • New York, like London, seems to be a cloacina [toilet] of all the depravities of human nature. Thomas Jefferson

    • Brooklyn Heights itself is a window on the port. Here, where the perspective is fixed by the towers of Manhattan and the hills of New Jersey and Staten Island, the channels running between seem fingers of the world ocean. Here one can easily embrace the suggestion, which Whitman felt so easily, that the whole American world opens out from here, north and west. Alfred Kazin

    • The faces in New York remind me of people who played a game and lost. Murray Kempton

    "When it's three o' clock in New York, it's still 1938 in London."

    Bette Midler


    • Whenever spring comes to New York I can't stand the suggestion of the land that come blowing over the river from New Jersey and I've got to go. So I went. Jack Kerouac

    • No one as yet has approached the management of New York in a proper spirit; that is to say, regarding it as the shiftless outcome of squalid barbarism and reckless extravagance. No one is likely to do so, because reflections on the long narrow pig-trough are construed as malevolent attacks against the spirit and majesty of the American people, and lead to angry comparisons. Rudyard Kipling

    • To start with, there's the alien accent. "Tree" is the number between two and four. "Jeintz" is the name of the New York professional football team. A "fit" is a bottle measuring seven ounces less than a quart. This exotic tongue has no relationship to any of the approved languages at the United Nations, and is only slightly less difficult to master than Urdu. Fletcher Knebel

    • As a city, New York moves in the forefront of today's great trend of great cities toward neurosis. She is confused, self-pitying, helpless and dependent. John Larnder

    • A hundred times have I thought New York is a catastrophe, and fifty times : It is a beautiful catastrophe. Le Corbusier

    • Vehement silhouettes of Manhattan - that vertical city with unimaginable diamonds.
    Le Corbusier

    • Robinson Crusoe, the self-sufficient man, could not have lived in New York city. Walter Lippman

    • Part of the oncoming demise (of New York during its terrible fiscal crisis) is that none of us can simply believe it. We were always the best and the strongest of cities, and our people were vital to the teeth. Knock them down eight times and they would get up with that look in the eye which suggests the fight has barely begun. Norman Mailer

    • It seems to me that you are better off, as a writer and as an American, in a small town than you'd be in New York. I thoroughly detest New York, though I have to go there very often…. Have you ever noticed that no American writer of any consequence lives in Manhattan? Dreiser tried it (after many years in the Bronx), but finally moved to California. H.L. Mencken

    • When it's three o' clock in New York, it's still 1938 in London. Bette Midler

    • My one thought is to get out of New York, to experience something genuinely American.
    Henry Miller

    • New York has a trip-hammer vitality which drives you insane with restlessness if you have no inner stabilizer. Henry Miller

    • In Rome I am weighted down by a lack of momentum, the inertia of a spent civilization. In New York I feel plugged into a strong alternating current of hope and despair. Ted Morgan

    New York is Babylon : Brooklyn is the truly Holy City.
    New York is the city of envy, office work, and hustle;
    Brooklyn is the region of homes and happiness….
    There is no hope for New Yorkers, for their glory in
    Their skyscraping sins; but in Brooklyn there is the wisdom of the lowly.
    Christopher Morley

    • And it was to this city, whenever I went home, that I always knew I must return, for it was mistress of one's wildest hopes, protector of one's deepest privacies. It was half insane with its noise, violence, and decay, but it gave one the tender security of fulfillment. On winter afternoons, from my office, there were sunsets across Manhattan when the smog itself shimmered and glowed… Despite its difficulties, which become more obvious all the time, one was constantly put to the test by this city, which finally came down to its people; no other place in America had quite such people and they would not allow you to go stale; in the end they were its triumph and its reward.
    Willie Morris

    • Unfortunately there are still people in other areas who regard New York City not as part of the United States, but as a sort of excrescence fastened to our Eastern shore and peopled by the less venturesome waves of foreigners who failed to go West to the genuine American frontier.
    Robert Moses

    • The skyscrapers began to rise again, frailly massive, elegantly utilitarian, images in their grace, audacity and inconclusiveness, of the whole character of the people who produces them.
    Malcolm Muggeridge

    • He who touches the soil of Manhattan and the pavement of New York, touches, whenever he knows or not, Walt Whitman. Lewis Mumford

    Vulgar of manner, overfed,
    Overdressed and underbred;
    Heartless, Godless, hell's delight,
    Rude by day and lewd by night…
    Crazed with avarice, lust and rum,
    New York, thy name's delirium.
    Byron Rufus Newton (1906)

    • New York City is made up of five boroughs, four of which - Brooklyn, Queens, Richmond, the Bronx - compose crinkled lily pads about the basking trout of Manhattan.
    New York Panorama
    (Federal Writers' Project of the WPA)

    • Any city gets what it admires, will pay for, and, ultimately deserves. Even when we had Penn station, we couldn't afford to keep it clean. We want and deserve tin-can architecture and a tin-horn culture. And we will probably be judged not by the monuments we build out but by those we have destroyed. New York Times editorial (1963)

    • It'll be a great place if they ever finish it. O. Henry

    • In dress, habits, manners, provincialism, routine and narrowness, he acquired that charming insolence, that irritating completeness, that sophisticated crassness, that overbalanced poise that makes the Manhattan gentleman so delightfully small in its greatness. O. Henry

    • I have been roaming far and wide over this island of Manhatta… the city is thronged with strangers, and everything wears an aspect of intense life. Business has experienced a thorough revival, and "all goes merry as a marriage bell." Notwithstanding the Croton water, or "the Crot'n", as the Gothamites have it, the streets are, with rare exception, insufferably dirty. The exceptions are to be found in Bond Street, Waverly Place, and some others of the upper, more retired, and more fashionable quarters… Edgar Allan Poe

    "It isn't like the rest of the country - it is like a nation itself - more tolerant than the rest in a curious way..."

    John Steinbeck


    • A crowd pagan as ever imperial Rome was, eager, careless with an animal vigor unlike that of any European crowd that I ever looked at. Ezra Pound

    • There are certainly numberless women of fashion who consider it perfectly natural to go miles down Fifth Avenue, or Madison Avenue, yet for whom a voyage of half a dozen blocks to east or west would be an adventure, almost a dangerous impairment of good breeding. Jules Romains

    • When its 100 degrees in New York, it's 72 in Los Angeles. When its 30 degrees in New York, in Los Angeles it's still 72. However, there are 6 million interesting people in New York, and only 72 in Los Angeles. Neil Simon

    • It isn't like the rest of the country - it is like a nation itself - more tolerant than the rest in a curious way. Littleness gets swallowed up here. All the viciousness that makes other cities vicious is sucked up and absorbed in New York. John Steinbeck

    • Situated on an island which I think it will one day cover, it rises like Venice from the sea, and like that fairest of cities in the days of her glory, receives into its lap tribute of all the riches of the earth. Francis Trollope (1827)

    • Hemingway describes literary New York as a bottle full of tapeworms trying to feed on each other. John Updike

    • I think my favorite sport in the Olympics is the one in which you make your way through the snow, you stop, you shoot a gun, and then you continue on. In most of the world, it is known as the biathlon, except in New York City, where it is known as winter. Michael Ventre, L.A. Daily News

    • Skyscraper national park. Kurt Vonnegut

    • An idea, a song, a discovery, an invention, may be born anywhere. But if it is to be communicated, if it is to be tested and compared and appreciated, then someone has always to carry it to the city. Max Ways

    • And suddenly as I looked back at the skyscrapers of lower New York a queer fancy sprang into my head. They reminded me quite irresistibly of plied-up packing-cases outside a warehouse. I was amazed I had not seen the resemblance before. I could really have believed for a moment that that was what they were, and that presently out of these would come the real thing, palaces and noble places, free, high circumstances, and space and leisure, light and fine living for the sons of men. H.G. Wells

    • New York City is a great apartment hotel in which everyone lives and no one is at home. Glenway Wescott

    • New York is to the nation what the white church spire is to the village - the visible symbol of aspiration and faith, the white plume saying the way is up! E.B. White

    • More and more too, the old name absorbs into me Mannahatta, 'the place encircled by many swift tides and sparkling waters.' How fit a name for America's great democratic island city! The word itself, how beautiful! how aboriginal! how it seems to rise with tall spires, glistening in sunshine, with such New World atmosphere, vista and action! Walt Whitman

    • There is no place like it, no place with an atom of its glory, pride, and exultancy. It lays its hand upon a man's bowels; he grows drunk with ecstasy; he grows young and full of glory, he feels that he can never die. Walt Whitman

    • At night… the streets become rhythmical perspectives of glowing dotted lines, reflections hung upon them in the streets as the wistaria hangs its violet racemes on its trellis. The buildings are shimmering verticality, a gossamer veil, a festive scene-prop hanging there against the black sky to dazzle, entertain, amaze. Frank Lloyd Wright


    Related links:

    New York, NY Quotes

    Sex and the City Quotes

    On New York

    Quotes About Places


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