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The Colossus of New York [Format Kindle]

Colson Whitehead

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Descriptions du produit


City Limits

I'm here because I was born here and thus ruined for anywhere else, but I don't know about you. Maybe you're from here, too, and sooner or later it will come out that we used to live a block away from each other and didn't even know it. Or maybe you moved here a couple years ago for a job. Maybe you came here for school. Maybe you saw the brochure. The city has spent a considerable amount of time and money putting the brochure together, what with all the movies, TV shows and songs--the whole If You Can Make It There business. The city also puts a lot of effort into making your hometown look really drab and tiny, just in case you were wondering why it's such a drag to go back sometimes.

No matter how long you have been here, you are a New Yorker the first time you say, That used to be Munsey's, or That used to be the Tic Toc Lounge. That before the internet cafe plugged itself in, you got your shoes resoled in the mom-and-pop operation that used to be there. You are a New Yorker when what was there before is more real and solid than what is here now.

You start building your private New York the first time you lay eyes on it. Maybe you were in a cab leaving the airport when the skyline first roused itself into view. All your worldly possessions were in the trunk, and in your hand you held an address on a piece of paper. Look: there's the Empire State Building, over there are the Twin Towers. Somewhere in that fantastic, glorious mess was the address on the piece of paper, your first home here. Maybe your parents dragged you here for a vacation when you were a kid and towed you up and down the gigantic avenues to shop for Christmas gifts. The only skyscrapers visible from your stroller were the legs of adults, but you got to know the ground pretty well and started to wonder why some sidewalks sparkle at certain angles, and others don't. Maybe you came to visit your old buddy, the one who moved here last summer, and there was some mix-up as to where you were supposed to meet. You stepped out of Penn Station into the dizzying hustle of Eighth Avenue and fainted. Freeze it there: that instant is the first brick in your city.

I started building my New York on the uptown No. 1 train. My first city memory is of looking out a subway window as the train erupted from the tunnel on the way to 125th Street and palsied up onto the elevated tracks. It's the early 70's, so everything is filthy. Which means everything is still filthy, because that is my city and I'm sticking to it. I still call it the Pan Am Building, not out of affectation, but because that's what it is. For that new transplant from Des Moines, who is starting her first week of work at a Park Avenue South insurance firm, that titan squatting over Grand Central is the Met Life Building, and for her it always will be. She is wrong, of course--when I look up there, I clearly see the gigantic letters spelling out Pan Am, don't I? And of course I am wrong, in the eyes of the old-timers who maintain the myth that there was a time before Pan Am.

History books and public television documentaries are always trying to tell you all sorts of "facts" about New York. That Canal Street used to be a canal. That Bryant Park used to be a reservoir. It's all hokum. I've been to Canal Street, and the only time I ever saw a river flow through it was during the last water-main explosion. Never listen to what people tell you about old New York, because if you didn't witness it, it is not a part of your New York and might as well be Jersey. Except for that bit about the Dutch buying Manhattan for 24 bucks--there are and always will be braggarts who "got in at the right time."

There are eight million naked cities in this naked city--they dispute and disagree. The New York City you live in is not my New York City; how could it be? This place multiplies when you're not looking. We move over here, we move over there. Over a lifetime, that adds up to a lot of neighborhoods, the motley construction material of your jerry-built metropolis. Your favorite newsstands, restaurants, movie theaters, subway stations and barbershops are replaced by your next neighborhood's favorites. It gets to be quite a sum. Before you know it, you have your own personal skyline.

Go back to your old haunts in your old neighborhoods and what do you find: they remain and have disappeared. The greasy spoon, the deli, the dry cleaner you scouted out when you first arrived and tried to make those new streets yours: they are gone. But look past the windows of the travel agency that replaced your pizza parlor. Beyond the desks and computers and promo posters for tropical adventures, you can still see Neapolitan slices cooling, the pizza cutter lying next to half a pie, the map of Sicily on the wall. It is all still there, I assure you. The man who just paid for a trip to Jamaica sees none of that, sees his romantic getaway, his family vacation, what this little shop on this little street has granted him. The disappeared pizza parlor is still here because you are here, and when the beauty parlor replaces the travel agency, the gentleman will still have his vacation. And that lady will have her manicure.

You swallow hard when you discover that the old coffee shop is now a chain pharmacy, that the place where you first kissed so-and-so is now a discount electronics retailer, that where you bought this very jacket is now rubble behind a blue plywood fence and a future office building. Damage has been done to your city. You say, It happened overnight. But of course it didn't. Your pizza parlor, his shoeshine stand, her hat store: when they were here, we neglected them. For all you know, the place closed down moments after the last time you walked out the door. (Ten months ago? Six years? Fifteen? You can't remember, can you?) And there have been five stores in that spot before the travel agency. Five different neighborhoods coming and going between then and now, other people's other cities. Or fifteen, twenty-five, a hundred neighborhoods. Thousands of people pass that storefront every day, each one haunting the streets of his or her own New York, not one of them seeing the same thing.

We can never make proper goodbyes. It was your last ride in a Checker cab and you had no warning. It was the last time you were going to have Lake Tung Ting shrimp in that kinda shady Chinese restaurant and you had no idea. If you had known, perhaps you would have stepped behind the counter and shaken everyone's hand, pulled out the disposable camera and issued posing instructions. But you had no idea. There are unheralded tipping points, a certain number of times that we will unlock the front door of an apartment. At some point you were closer to the last time than you were to the first time, and you didn't even know it. You didn't know that each time you passed the threshold you were saying goodbye.

I never got a chance to say goodbye to some of my old buildings. Some I lived in, others were part of a skyline I thought would always be there. And they never got a chance to say goodbye to me. I think they would have liked to--I refuse to believe in their indifference. You say you know these streets pretty well? The city knows you better than any living person because it has seen you when you are alone. It saw you steeling yourself for the job interview, slowly walking home after the late date, tripping over nonexistent impediments on the sidewalk. It saw you wince when the single frigid drop fell from the air-conditioner twelve stories up and zapped you. It saw the bewilderment on your face as you stepped out of the stolen matinee, incredulous that there was still daylight after such a long movie. It saw you half-running up the street after you got the keys to your first apartment. The city saw all that. Remembers too.

Consider what all your old apartments would say if they got together to swap stories. They could piece together the starts and finishes of your relationships, complain about your wardrobe and musical tastes, gossip about who you are after midnight. 7J says, So that's what happened to Lucy--I knew it would never work out. You picked up yoga, you put down yoga, you tried various cures. You tried on selves and got rid of them, and this makes your old rooms wistful: why must things change? 3R goes, Saxophone, you say--I knew him when he played guitar. Cherish your old apartments and pause for a moment when you pass them. Pay tribute, for they are the caretakers of your reinventions.

Our streets are calendars containing who we were and who we will be next. We see ourselves in this city every day when we walk down the sidewalk and catch our reflections in store windows, seek ourselves in this city each time we reminisce about what was there fifteen, ten, forty years ago, because all our old places are proof that we were here. One day the city we built will be gone, and when it goes, we go. When the buildings fall, we topple, too.

Maybe we become New Yorkers the day we realize that New York will go on without us. To put off the inevitable, we try to fix the city in place, remember it as it was, doing to the city what we would never allow to be done to ourselves. The kid on the uptown No. 1 train, the new arrival stepping out of Grand Central, the jerk at the intersection who doesn't know east from west: those people don't exist anymore, ceased to be a couple of apartments ago, and we wouldn't have it any other way. New York City does not hold our former selves against us. Perhaps we can extend the same courtesy.

Our old buildings still stand because we saw them, moved in and out of their long shadows, were lucky enough to know them for a time. They are a part of the city we carry around. It is hard to imagine that something will take their place, but at this very moment the people with the right credentials are considering how to fill the craters. The cement trucks will roll up and spin their bellies, the jackhammers will rattle, and after a while the postcards of the new skyline will be available for purchase. Naturally we will cast a wary eye toward those new kids on the block, but let's be patient and not judge too quickly. We were new here, too, once.

What follows is my city. Making this a guide book, with handy color-coded maps and miniscule fine print you should read very closely so you won't be surprised. It contains your neighborhoods. Or doesn't. We overlap. Or don't. Maybe you've walked these avenues, maybe it's all Jersey to you. I'm not sure what to say. Except that probably we're neighbors. That we walk past each other every day, and never knew it until now.

The Port Authority

They're all broken somehow, sagging down the stairs of the bus. Otherwise they would have come here differently. The paparazzi do not wait to take their picture. Barricades do not hold back the faithful. This is the back entrance after all.

In the parking berth it is anticlimactic. A man in goggles records the time of arrival. The baggage handler huffs into his palms, one job closer to punching out. Thousands of arrivals every day, they won't stop coming. Different people but all the same. They try to sneak by with different faces but it is no use. They step down the grooved steps, clutching items and the attendant lugs the bags out of the bin, looking for handles. They get excited and jostle: is someone going to steal their bags. They have all heard the stories. One of them has a cousin who came here once and was a victim of street crime. He had to have money wired so he could get home and that was the last time their clan went to New York. There is a thing called three card monte out to get you. They have all heard the stories and they all come anyway. The bags thud on concrete and get taken.

No matter their home towns, no matter their reasons for sliding cash through ticket windows, on the bus they are all alike. They get on. By the driver they take stock, shoving receipts into pockets and bags. There are some seats in the back. They all want to sit alone. You have never been the first on the bus and had your pick. People have theories about window seats and aisle seats and which areas are safer in the event of a crash. He is unaware that his duffel hits each person on the head as he passes. Is this seat taken, he says, and his measure is taken by his neighbor. Scowls come easy. It only takes five minutes for them to ease into lasting discomfort. If only she could breathe through her mouth for the next thousand miles. She practices a technique. At the next stop people arrange bags and jackets on the empty seats beside them and avoid eye contact or feign sleep when the new pilgrims try to find seats.

There is not much to occupy them on the highways except intermittent foreshadowings. An industrial park, the confident skyline of a smaller city than the one named on their ripped tickets. Signs on the highway count down miles, sometimes heartening. More furtive things dart from the headlights to escape glimpses. Across three states the empty bottle of juice rolls up and down the bus between shoes and bags. No one claims ownership. Responsible parties pretend not to hear. That is surely a wig two rows up. They try out new positions for their legs. One drawn up and the other wedged into the footrest. Both feet almost in the aisle until the third person trips on them. He has long legs and deserves special rights. The tall man drives his knees into the seat in front of him, squeezing up a chimney. Hers is the only seat that won't recline. The lever has been ripped off and every inclination of her neighbors summons jealousy. Each new combination of limbs might be the one that unlocks the vault of comfort and then sleep. Instead, parts that don't matter fall asleep before their brains. Legs, feet. As they cross state lines, license plates change colors.

From the Hardcover edition.

Revue de presse

“A tour de force.” —Luc Sante, The New York Times Book Review

“Pitch-perfect. . . . Utterly authentic. . . . The Colossus of New York is quite simply the most delicious 13 bites of the Big Apple I’ve taken in ages.” --Grace Lichenstein, The Washington Post

“A love letter to New York. . . . Colossus illuminates innumerable little moments that define the city.” —San Francisco Chronicle

“The cheapest, most stylish ticket to the Big Apple between two covers. . . . .It’s as if Whitehead’s scooped his pen into the collective unconscious of everyone who’s ever visited New York.” —Pittsburg Post-Gazette

“A revelatory ode to Gotham. . . . Whitehead’s engaged eyes and precise prose show us the small details we overlook and the large ones we fail to absorb.” —The Miami Herald

“Smooth, dazzling, evocative. . . . [Whitehead] writes wonderfully, commanding a lush, poetic, mellifluous prose instrument.” –The Nation

“[Whitehead is] a scientist of metropolitan encounters, he surveys places where the masses collide, knitting together hundreds of observations and calculations that usually remain unspoken. . . . The musical prose thrums with urban momentum.” —The Village Voice

“[Whithead’s] New York, like Walt Whitman’s or Thomas Pynchon’s or Woody Allen’s, is full of incantatory potential. Even the subway, ordinary, noisy, gruddy inevitability, becomes a ferry to the Underworld.” —The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“[A] rapsodic ode to Gotham.” —Time Out

“Jazzlike. . . . A vivid impressionistic montage of Manhattan.” —The Seattle Times

“Whitehead’s series of vignettes and remembrances paint a perfect visual landscape. . . . A heartfelt tribute to Whitehead’s home.” —The Oregonian

“Lyrical. . . . Lean and full of longing. . . . The kind of book that will be . . . passed around, dog-eared, library-tagged, resold, from reader to reader. . . . Whitehead takes a known and specific place and universalizes it, insinuating it into the meshwork of our thoughts in a manner impervious to time and trend.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Thrums with anxious excitement and excited anxiety accommodating the noirish, the reportorial, and the epigrammatic. . . . The best passages deserve comparison with E.B. White’s Here is New York.” —Entertainment Weekly

“Whitehead [is] one of the city’s and country’s finest young writers. . . . [A] guided tour de force.” —Chicago Tribune

“Jazzlike. . . . A vivid impressionistic montage of Manhattan.” —The Seattle Times

“A revelatory ode to Gotham. . . . Whitehead’s engaged eyes and precise prose show us the small details we overlook and the large ones we fail to absorb.” —Miami Herald

“Profound and playful.” —Los Angeles Times

“Whitehead’s series of vignettes and remembrances paint a perfect visual landscape. . . . A heartfelt tribute to Whitehead’s home.” —The Oregonian

“Rhapsodic love letters . . . elegant, ambitious essays.” —New York Post

“Impressionistic . . . [an] affecting homage to E.B. White.” —New York Magazine (Top Fall Book Pick)

Détails sur le produit

  • Format : Format Kindle
  • Taille du fichier : 466 KB
  • Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 178 pages
  • Editeur : Anchor; Édition : Reprint (18 décembre 2007)
  • Vendu par : Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ASIN: B001334IWO
  • Synthèse vocale : Non activée
  • X-Ray :
  • Word Wise: Non activé
  • Composition améliorée: Activé
  • Classement des meilleures ventes d'Amazon: n°197.387 dans la Boutique Kindle (Voir le Top 100 dans la Boutique Kindle)

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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.7 étoiles sur 5  27 commentaires
36 internautes sur 40 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 A beautiful little book. 24 octobre 2003
Par Un client - Publié sur Amazon.com
I read a great deal of this book in a bookstore this afternoon, knowing good and well that I had no business buying another book - I ended up buying it (half because I was in love with it, half because the author was doing a reading at the same bookstore later in the evening and I wanted a signed copy). Sufficed to say - I went to the reading, finished the book on the train and I am in love with this man's words and have fallen in love with New York AGAIN (both his and mine)
The writing is so beautiful and raw and smart and witty and has the tendency to remind us how wondrous all of the things we overlook as ordinary really are and just how singular NY reallt is. And, of course, god bless the man who can write in tons of tenses and not lose the audience's interest. Whitehead feels to me (having not read his other work) like the rare kind of writer who can write to and for anyone.
Everyone is getting this book for christmas. Everyone. I hope many read it, its give-you-goosebumps lovely.
14 internautes sur 16 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Beautiful Prose Poem 23 décembre 2003
Par R. J. Marsella - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
This short work captures in beautifully evocative language the moods amd nuances of daily life in New York City. It is a book that expresses so accurately the feelings that I personally experience in New York that I wish this is the book I had written. Thankfully Colson Whitehead has put these observations and feelings into words and expressed them for all New Yorkers in spirit to savor and reflect on again and again. A wonderful book for current residents, transplanted natives (like me) and visitors who want to get inside the pulse of the greatest city on the planet.
14 internautes sur 17 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Fantastic. 17 mars 2004
Par Robert Beveridge - Publié sur Amazon.com
Colson Whitehead, The Colossus of New York: A City in Thirteen Parts (Doubleday, 2003)
When one encounters the name "Colson Whitehead," one is apt to think of an old Irish immigrant viewing the city through a jaundiced eye, bleary from another night of stumbling home in rush hour only to find he's locked himself out of his bachelor pad and can't get to the can of beans sitting on the counter seductively calling his name. Instead, what we're given is a young (younger than I am, anyway) born-and-raised New Yorker writing about the place he calls home.
But Colson Whitehead's The Colossus of New York is not just another travelogue. Oh, no, my friends. In fact, it is anything but; I seriously doubt the NY tourism board is going to be recommending this one. At times loving and ominous, sweet and sassy, laugh-out-loud funny and painfully depressed, The Colossus of New York is much like New York itself. There are eight million stories in the naked city, Whitehead wryly quotes, and one would think from reading this that every one of them is feeling a completely different emotion from any of the others at any given moment, and that it's all a constantly swirling chaotic mass. Amen.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about the book is how Whitehead manages to take this odd, impressionist look at New York and map it onto you, the reader. You're liable to find at least one or two snatches of sentence per page you can identify with, even if you've never set foot within an hundred miles of the place. Thus, even if you care nothing about New York, it's probable he's going to keep you interested in its goings-on. A beautiful thing, that. But the draw of the book, and its continuing majesty throughout, is Whitehead's ability with language. His diction takes us from the language poetry of Charles Olson to the Nuyorican-style street rap that passes for poetry among slammers, but with Whitehead the language never loses its poetic drive. All of it, even the ugliness, is beautiful.
And above all, The Colossus of New York is a love song, the kind that one would write to one's spouse after seventy years of marriage if one could find a way to include all one's spouse's faults and still make it beautiful. This is a powerful little book, and highly deserving of the widest possible audience. A shoo-in for the top ten list this year. **** 
4 internautes sur 4 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 ride the riffs, friend 2 décembre 2005
Par A. C. Walter - Publié sur Amazon.com
Colson Whitehead's "The Colossus of New York" is a sort of prose poem to New York. But interestingly enough, the city's identity is almost incidental. New York could be any megalopolis. Whitehead simply uses it as a convenient dumping ground for heaping piles of metaphor, innuendo, and wry pseudo-Freudian slip-riffs. As Whitehead eventually says: "Talking about New York is a way of talking about the world." He even outdoes Iain Sinclair in this territory because, hey, "Colossus" is actually readable.

Whitehead sculpts sentences here with dazzling, fluid mastery. In sentence after sentence, he manages to surprise you, keeping you in gleeful suspense for that next line, and the next one... And yet it never feels overwrought or exhausting, probably because he pays equal attention to the rhythm of his prose (this is one of those books you can't help reading aloud).

Here's one of my many favorite passages, set in the subway system:

"This is the fabled journey through the underground, folks, and it's going to get a whole lot worse before it gets better. On the opposite track it's a field of greener grass, you gotta beat trains off with a stick. From his secret booth the announcer scares and reassures alternatively. The postures on the platform sag or stiffen appropriately. With a dial controlling the amount of static. What are their rooms like, the men at the microphones. One day the fiscal importunities of the subway announcer's union will be exposed and that will be the end of the hot tubs and lobster, but until then they break out the bubbly. Look down the tunnel one more time and your behavior will describe a psychiatric disorder. It's infectious. They take turns looking down into darkness and the platform is a clock: the more people standing dumb, the more time has passed since the last train. The people fall from above into hourglass dunes. Collect like seconds."

I also recommend the audio book edition of this title, as Whitehead himself reads the thing in a dizzying performance. It's like a long shot of aggression with a beat-poetry rhythm and a helping of faux snottiness, all orchestrated to allow us to experience the idea of street-level New York in a manageable package.
6 internautes sur 7 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Very good but not colossal 6 février 2006
Par Rocco Dormarunno - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Broché|Achat vérifié
This little sort of tone poem captures some of the beauty and some of the meanness of New York life. I didn't come away from THE COLOSSUS OF NEW YORK as being negative toward the city, but even if Mr. Whitehead were, we New Yorkers need our cranks and curmudgeons. It makes us part of who we are, after all.

The free style works MOST of the time. When it doesn't, it really doesn't. (It is no coincidence that the most straight-forward section, the introduction, is the most superb!) THE COLOSSUS OF NEW YORK doesn't have the lyricism of E.B. White's THIS IS NEW YORK, but it doesn't pretend to want to be like it, anyway. Colson Whitehead's piece is more like Whitman's poetry, as he rambled along the old downtown streets and piers, and recorded his scenes and his feelings about them. Yes, this book could have been greater, but it doesn't take away from the power much of it has. So if you're looking for a history of or guidebook to New York City, this is not the book. But if you're looking for the evocative power of New York, written in a personal, lyrical style, you won't find many better than THE COLOSSUS OF NEW YORK.
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