There is no advice in this engrossing guide to New York City where to find a comfortable, inexpensive, accessible hotel in Manhattan, on how much to tip a Park Avenue doorman, who, on a rainy day, steps out into a foot of water to wave down a cab for you, or other such tidbits for the traveler. Instead, London-bred and Cambridge-coddled Stephen Brook has written a travel book in the tradition of the not-so innocent Englishman abroad exploring an alien culture and indulging himself and his readers in its rites.
Brook emersed himself in Manhattan, playing journalist, visiting public hospitals, private schools, depressing courtrooms and oppressive prisons; interviewing politicians, lawyers, Realtors, bankers, intellectuals, taxicab drivers and just about anyone else who would talk to him; attending gallery openings, religious services, concerts and the opera; touring landmarks; grabbing lunch; having drinks; hailing cabs; riding the subway; jogging in Central Park, and cruising single and gay bars. In short, Brook lived in New York instead of just visiting it.
And, he used his time well. The incidents, accidents, interviews and insights are nicely structured and paced in a series of scenes related in that peculiar British blend of bemusement and wit, which tended for Brook to compensate for his occasional confusion and contradictions. There also are hints of a personal life that lend him character beyond that of a supercilious voyeur.