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Original Essays | September 15, 2014

Lois Leveen: IMG Forsooth Me Not: Shakespeare, Juliet, Her Nurse, and a Novel

There's this writer, William Shakespeare. Perhaps you've heard of him. He wrote this play, Romeo and Juliet. Maybe you've heard of it as well. It's... Continue »
  1. $18.19 Sale Hardcover add to wish list

    Juliet's Nurse

    Lois Leveen 9781476757445


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John Russell has commented on (1) product.

Open City by Teju Cole
Open City

John Russell, September 3, 2011

This is a wonderfully evocative portrait of New York City and of rootless migrants in the world today. "Open city" is a concept wherein a city declares to invaders that it won't defend itself as a way of avoiding worse destruction. Cole mentions Brussels' declaration of open city status in the Second World War, but the idea of open city in Cole's novel also refers to the ability or not to migrate - there are scenes revolving around immigration in New York and an extended section on immigrants in Brussels - and the often (but not always) negative reaction that natives have to newcomers. This novel is not just about the politics of globalization, however, as the narrator himself, while endlessly approached by strangers, is not fully open to himself or to the people he encounters. I've seen others describe the narrator as chilly and distant, and we are crucially exposed to this trait in his interactions with women, but I found myself relating to the narrator and for the most part immersed in his view of his world. In the end, what sticks with me are not the overarching political and personal themes, but the descriptions of the southern tip of Manhattan, Mahler's 9th, the paintings in the folk art museum, the sky. Other readers will doubtless focus more on the ideas of cosmopolitanism, aesthetics, and interpersonal politics that _Open City_ raises, but I think most will agree that Cole has created an engaging and original novel and will look forward to reading more.
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