Friday, April 04, 2014

Book-A-Day 2014 #93: NYC Basic Tips and Etiquette by Nathan W. Pyle

Living in a big city -- or in civilization in general -- is not the natural state of man. We evolved as naked apes on the African savanna, so it's only natural that we may sometimes need a little help fitting into more sophisticated and complicated modern societies. But that doesn't mean that big cities, or any particular big city, is a strange and completely alien place with utterly different mores.

The big things are always the same: be considerate of others. Pay attention. Think before you act. Those three rules will get you through more than 90% of life.

Nathan W. Pyle, though, wants to go into more detail -- he found New York City huge and overwhelming and different when he moved there from Ohio in 2008. (Though that sounds more like an Ohio joke to me; his rules apply almost equally well to Cleveland or Cincinnati.) He started codifying the rules of the city as he saw them, and turned them into animated single-panel cartoons on a website.

Eventually, he had enough for a book: NYC Basic Tips and Etiquette. The dead-tree version, which I read, sadly omits the animations. The 136 tips here are a sneaky love letter to the Big Apple, disguised as a newcomer's guide to its pitfalls and secrets; Pyle has the newcomer's utterly devoted love for The City, and he wants to share all of the things he's learned as widely as possible.

Most of the tips here should be obvious: don't stand in people's way, don't walk in traffic (including bike lanes), don't take up lots of space just because you can. There are some NYC-specific tips as well, such as that a cab with the numbers lit is available and that the Staten Island Ferry is a great free view of the Statue of Liberty. But a lot of the tips just catalog all of the many ways you can get in the way of others: blocking subway doors, walking slowly in packs, stopping randomly on the sidewalk, opening doors without looking, spreading out your stuff in a coffee shop. Most of us who are not jerks do those things at most once, and then learn better.

Pyle has a stark style, with lots of blacks -- his drawing chops are nearly up to the starkness and simplicity of the design, with a bit of wobble here and there. But the art gets the job done: it shows clearly what Pyle's trying to communicate, which is even more important than being attractive art.

This would make a fine gift for your tremulous friend on her first trip to NYC, or to some other Ohio farmboy making the big move. But it's mostly stuff you learn in your first hundred hours there, so it might not be as interesting to those who already know the difference between the Chrysler and Empire State buildings. (Not to mention those of us who insist on calling another one "the Pan Am building.")

Book-A-Day 2014 Introduction and Index

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