The mouse—or is it cockroach?—emerging from under your stove; the upstairs neighbor apparently vacuuming up marbles; the feeling of your heel getting stuck in a sewer grate: horror story or just daily life in New York City?
A new book called I Love(ish) New York: Tales of City Life by Ali Solomon celebrates the magic of life in the city while gently poking fun at it. It's a hardcover book filled with detailed illustrations that'll make you laugh out loud.
Solomon, a writer, art teacher and cartoonist who contributes to The New Yorker, grew up in Long Island, then moved into the city for two decades before moving back to Long Island recently. She's steeped in the city's culture and wields her pen to point out its most defining traits ... for better or for worse.
For example, there’s her “The Newcomer Bucket List,” including items like trying to figure out what everyone is waiting in line for and hitting on a man in uniform during Fleet Week … even if “the only uniformed person around is your mail carrier.” Other chapters include a quiz titled “Will Your Stuff Fit into Your New Apartment?,” a schedule called “Your Upstairs Neighbor’s Daily Itinerary” including tap dancing and anvil tossing, and an extremely relatable “Guided Tour of Youthful Mistakes.”
Most of the stories contain some grain of truth, she said, even though they're exaggerated for comedic effect.
In some ways, the pandemic helped inspire her work.
“During the pandemic, New York shifted in ways that I didn’t really see coming,” Solomon said. “All the things that I’d always loved about New York no longer really existed, so it forced me and my family to try and reconsider how to experience and live in New York. It was also hard hearing everybody talk about how ’New York is over’ and ’New York is dead’ and ‘everybody’s just mass migrating out of New York.’ I have this family of four, and we’re trying to figure out ways to enjoy the city still because we’re stuck here in this very small apartment, and it kind of opened my eyes to all the wonderful things about New York.”
From that, her book was born.
"I always wanted to write a love letter to New York," she said, "but this sort of helped me refocus."
Given the book's love letter energy, we wanted to hear about Solomon's favorite places around town. Here's what she had to say:
What's your favorite neighborhood in NYC?
"It varies based on how old I am. The neighborhoods I liked in my 20s are very different than the ones I like as I get older."
Forest Hills tops her list for its family-friendly vibe, along with great restaurants and parks.
What's your favorite NYC restaurant?
Keuka Kafe in Forest Hills—“this tiny little old hole-in-the-wall wine bar”—with friendly staff and a homey atmosphere.
What's your ideal NYC day?
Traversing the High Line, stumbling into pocket parks, hanging out in the sculpture garden at MoMA while sipping a glass of wine and admiring the art.
"I like stumbling upon a place I didn't know," she added.
Why did you want to write a love letter to NYC?
"It's a place that gives everybody both a universal experience and also something that's so varied and so different. It's something that's so steeped in history," she said. "It's the kind of place that everybody looks back on fondly, even if you have horror stories."
With humor and heart, Solomon knows how to turn even the most horrifying, frustrating New York City daily experiences into something worth chuckling over and remembering fondly.
I Love(ish) New York: Tales of City Life publishes on October 25. Get a copy at your favorite local bookstore, like The Strand in Manhattan or Kew & Willow Books in Queens. The author will host a launch event on October 27 at The Corner Bookstore in Manhattan.