Teju Cole Open City
We so agree with the Observer's Elizabeth Day that Teju Cole's Open City is one of the best city novels - in his case about his adopted city of New York.
Spoiler alert but his description of his protagonist being stuck on a fire escape high above Carnegie Hall and in a storm is probably not one to read if you have trouble with heights.
And we love her other choice for New York: Tom Wolfe's eighties nightmare Bonfire of the Vanities. Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser, which tells Chicago's story, is a book we're now determined to read too.
Then there's London: Bleak House of course and Capital by John Lanchester as well as our favourite NW by Zadie Smith. It's lovely when a less feted part of a city - in this case Willesden - is evoked so brilliantly. Who can ever forget the church between two busy main roads where her two main characters take their children one hot and dusty summer's afternoon. It's writing of the highest degree. There's also a wonderful chapter set at a summertime party on the top of a block of flats in Soho. The character Smith depicts here is drunk and drugged and being jilted and her malaise somehow parallels the world below.
Elizabeth Day also includes Dublin (Ulysses of course), Moscow (The Master and the Margarita), Bombay (A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry) and the biggest surprise, The Dog by Joseph O'Neil set in Dubai. One wonders how many other books have been set in this high-rise desert city.
Guilty admission: we're the publishers of the city-pick urban anthology series featuring some of the (we hope) best writing on favourite world cities. It's why we wanted to see Berlin there (Paul Verhaeghen Omega Minor, read it and be dazzled), Paris of course (where do you start?), Amsterdam (H M van den Brink On the Water for the city's gentler pleasures), Joseph Brodsky for his description of the melting ice on St Petersburg's Neva.
And there are more cities. Lots more. Each with their own amazing writers to evoke the real souls of each of them in their own quirky and idiosyncratic ways.
Thank you Elizabeth Day for starting us on this journey - of seeing how city novels can take us to the very heart of a metropolis.