John Updike on living in NYC

the true new yorker secretly believes
that people living anywhere else
have to be, in some sense, kidding.
– john updike

31 Comments leave a comment below

  1. I like many things about this blog and NYC for that matter. But this post… I wish there was an unlike button. Sorry.

  2. PJ

    I would have to disagree… after living in NYC for 5 years… true New Yorkers do have these thoughts of the “outside world”

    an interesting side note… John Updike avoided NYC

  3. Living in Paris, I think the same…

  4. How does the saying go… Misery loves company. ;) JK

    SoCal beach residents NEVER dream of skyscrapers, congestion and oh yeah… winter.
    70 degrees today and I will be in shorts and t-shirt all day, except for a couple of hours when I hit the surf.

    To each his own, thank goodness we don’t all want to be in the same place.

  5. I feel the same way about London :)

  6. Love Updike, and love this quote. It does come off a little snotty to those who don’t call the city home; but for a true New Yorker for whom living elsewhere is unthinkable, it’s probably accurate.

    Besides, you could say the same about other cities – Paris, London – or you could also turn it around: “The true ______ secretly believes that people living in New York have to be, in some sense, kidding.” Each statement has its adherents.

    [I say this as a New Yorker who’s currently living and working in Ohio, and returning this summer. Rarely do I meet anyone who understands why I want to go back.]

  7. I feel the same way about Portland, Oregon. I’m a native and I’ve never lived outside of Oregon. I sometimes think I should move somewhere else just to give it a try but I still haven’t found anyplace that allures me yet. There is just so much to do, see, experience and such beauty all around me. The mix of city and country so close together is really fantastic.

  8. People spend a lot of time loving up their cities. I’d personally rather live in Paris or Portland than New York, by a very large margin (maybe not so large if I had pots of money to have a sustainable existence in NYC). I find it a little telling that New Yorkers spend more energy than most continually re-validating their choice by saying out loud how great it is. Other cities speak for themselves a bit better and don’t require their residents to keep voicing affirmations. Also: RIP John Updike.

  9. New Yorkers tend to think that this is the attitude that makes them real or true New Yorkers.
    Without judgement, the interesting question is: “Why?”
    Why do they feel that this self-affirmation is important to them?

  10. I’m happy to be living, anywhere.

  11. I also feel the same about London!

  12. To most NYers it’s true (also note the “secretly”). We’re not trying to make you feel bad, we just like our city. You’re welcome to like yours (and think it’s the best), too. If on the other hand you have an inferiority complex about where you live, well…

  13. Totally agree with Simon.

    No offend but I think “the true new yorker” here refers to those new comers. And that is one of the reasons I recently moved away from NY after living there for 11 years.

  14. At face value, this is one of the most pretentious quotes about New Yorkers that happens to pop up on the web every few months. One can read deeper into it and perhaps dig up an alternate meaning other than “you’ve got to be kidding if you think New York isn’t the best,” but I don’t buy it. I’m sorry, Tina, but I agree with PJ on this.

  15. Andrew and PJ: I don’t think Updike meant that anyone who preferred someplace else to New York would have to be kidding, just that no true New Yorker can understand the appeal of living anywhere else. I’ve only ever met one person who was like that: a native New Yorker who had spent at least half her life in other places.

  16. Hannah: It is clearly written. Like I said, I love NYC. I think people that live there should love it too. Although, I don’t think anyone should put down anyone else for living somewhere else. If everyone that lives in NYC “secretly” thinks this… then these are not the type of people I want to share my bars, restaurants and coffee shops with.

    I don’t think this quote does justice to New Yorkers… and after reading Chris’s NYTimes article above I’m not entirely sure Updike didn’t “secretly” mean for this to be a dig on New Yorkers.

  17. People travelled in Asia to come back to tell me how Bangkok, HK, Taipei or Shanghai or Tokyo has X times more people than NYC, more stores that run 24 hours a day, more this, more that. I am so secretly happy that they are making a fool of themselves, for they have already admitted the superiority of a certain something of NY. My usual reply to them goes like ‘ So b/c Mcdonalds make MORE burger, they make better burger than your mom.?’ (any guess where this line is from?) – then I’d say, look at those cities’ people, they are, above all, shoppers :) They don’t have: Woody Allen, Berstein, Warhol, anything…Their culture is diminishing and they take other cities’ surface and put it on themselves. They are followers, not the ‘skate to where the puck will be’. And some city, fear that they be seen as followers, went mad and try to be as ‘creative’, ‘ahead of its time’ and made truly bizarre buildings, customs, food, service, just so to differentiate themselves from their neighbor NY competitor wanna be’s. Like Tokyo. Great cities, there are few in my heart, NY, London, and Paris. And no, I truly do not believe in question like ‘Have you been to XYZ?” I don’t have to.

  18. If you weren’t born in New York then you’re not a New Yorker.

  19. “Why, Sir, you find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.”
    — Samuel Johnson

  20. This is the reason that i find New Yorkers so pretentious. They are very similar to that 50 year old guy who goes through a mid life crisis and goes out and buys himself a porsche and a 20 year old girlfriend to validate himself. I have lived in NY, Chicago, SF, Boulder, CO, and Greenwich CT. I love visiting NYC for a weekend, but if i stay too long i find myself realizing how many of these people are pompous pricks. The things that people point to as what defines New York all seem artificial or just seem as fake as the cheeseball tans on the shore boys. Culture? Yeah, i will come make the museum rounds a few weekends a year. Trendy Clubs with B list actors? Nah, thats ok. I would rather hit a hole in the wall joint with good friends than wait behind some stupid rope for 2 hours to get into a place and pay 10 bucks for a watered down drink. The farther you get away from the city, the more you realize how artificial it is.
    The backbone of a great city are the people and the people make Chicago. When it comes to an incredible city in the summer, it can’t be beat. San Francisco i loved due to the proximity of so many amazing things (Yosemite, Lake Tahoe, Redwoods, Pacific Ocean) the city was great but tended to roll up the sidewalks in comparison to NYC. Though as i get older and wiser i realize the things that matter in life are found more readily in cities where i am not worried about ‘culture’ and instead actually get to experience life through good people, great outdoors, and great weather. You can have NYC and their half million dollar 900 square foot apartments, trust me living anywhere else just makes too much sense.

  21. Anyone who thinks you need to be super rich to live in New York needs to talk to the 1.5 million New Yorkers who live below the poverty line.

  22. Ian: I agree with you. Also, the NYT seems to have a perpetual love-fest for Portland (my home-town and current place of residence), always sending writers to visit, gush about our food, bikes, art, etc. UGH. I want my city to be left alone. :)

    I think if your city is so great, you don’t need to remind people about it. The city “exudes” that greatness without the citizens having to brag about it.

    Perhaps this “typical NY attitude” is just over-compensation on the part of New Yorkers for decades of rampant urban decay, epidemic drug use, and violent crime that have been getting better over the last 15 years, and they want others to realize that their city is a livable, viable place.

  23. The only problem with this statement is that JOhn Updike is not a New Yorker.

    I have never lived anywhere but NYC and am having more and more trouble with the amount of people who move here and proclaim themselves “New Yorkers.” It seems to be the only way you can be from a place is to be formed by that place; to have been a part of it in your formative years.

    In my estimation, the people who are most garrulous about “New York is…” are people who moved here from elsewhere and are concerned with proving the power and insight of their observations.

  24. Two possible reasons:

    1) You are new to the city and incredibly excited. And you want to be a part of it.

    2) You have been in the city for some time and learned to live with all the compromises, and you feel the need to justify that it’s all worth it.

    Signs and signage – road signs, movie marquees, newspaper headlines real and imaginary, municipal signs, electronic message boards, storefronts, etc. – function as important indicators of the shifts, changes, and developments in Angstrom’s consciousness as he grows older throughout the decades chronicled in Updike’s ‘Rabbit’ series.

  26. POSTMODERN DECONSTRUCTION MADHOUSE From 3/1/14 will focus exclusively on reflections on Saul Bellow, John Updike, and Don DeLillo. NOTE Any quotes from copyrighted works on this blog are for scholarly purposes only and quoted under the Fair Use Act.

  27. As the series progresses chronologically Angstrom grows more acutely aware of signs and their meanings and messages – by my rough count the signs and signage we come across break down as follows:

  28. Surely Robert Stone is one of the best writers of individual scenes in all of our literature – think of the scene in A Flag for Sunrise where Tabor shoots his dogs, or in Children of Light where members of a film crew mistake the phrase “Bosch’s Garden” for “Butch’s Garden”, which they speculate is an S&M joint in Los Angeles.

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