New York City in fiction

federal hall
I’m off to New York this week to look for housing; to put me in the right frame of mind, I’d like to hear suggestions of iconic portrayals of NYC (particularly Manhattan) in fiction. Accuracy of the portrayal is less important than style, but if it captures the spirit of the city in some sense that’s a bonus. In any case the city shouldn’t just be the setting (Wikipedia has a whole category devoted to this); New York should be somehow central to the story or thematically important. Some ideas (just off the top of my head):

  • Film: King Kong, Escape from New York, Cloverfield

  • Television: Seinfeld, Sex and the City
  • Literature: Bonfire of the Vanities, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
  • Video games: Deus Ex, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty

Please suggest more, and I will check out the ones I haven’t seen/read so as to be up to speed on the cultural connections to my new location.
Bonus round: iconic portrayals of Wall Street or the finance industry in particular, such as the Oliver Stone film Wall Street.

13 thoughts on “New York City in fiction

  1. Justin

    Books: Book of Night with Moon by Diane Duane; I think you could argue that Caves of Steel by Asimov was inspired by NY though I don’t recall which city it was actually set in.
    Film: Ghostbusters, of course. And that Eddie Murphy movie, Trading Places (finance!).

  2. evnike

    John Guare’s play, Six Degrees of Separation. Movie directed by Fred Schepisi with Will Smith, Stockard Channing and Donald Sutherland.
    Mark Helprin’s Winter’s Tale.
    Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Manhattan, and the awesome Bugs Bunny cartoon flashback episode where the book saves his life.
    Keeping the Faith, starring Ed Norton, Ben Stiller, Jenna Elfman and NYC. Bonus point: A drunk and melancholy Ed Norton walks south on Seventh Avenue passing the Morgan Stanley 750 building in an inebriated haze….
    Disney’s Enchanted, where Giselle/Amy Adams is banished to “a place with no happily ever after”, i.e., NYC.

  3. Josh

    You did just see a play which was quite New York centric, if I recall.
    Justin stole two movie suggestions I had right off the bat.
    Rescue Me is the TV show that comes to mind.
    For movies, I’d throw up Fight Club, The 25th Hour (Double star this one, must see for the NYC experience), NYC (Bonus Wall Street fun), Phone Booth, and if you want to go classical, Gangs of New York (Which is Goodfellas+I DRINK YOUR MILKSHAKE)
    Bear in mind, those are only the movies from my immediate collection. I’ll have more for you later. Also a Chicago move would be much more convenient… you can go back and do the John Hughes collection of Uncle Buck, Planes Trains etc.
    Literature: Also American Psycho
    Comics: Watchmen
    Video Games: Parasite Eve

  4. Josh

    Also, those Pace Thick & Chunky Salsa commercials, while not SET in New York City, are very New York City-centric.

  5. Mason

    Now that this has been brought up, I’m afraid I have to add: “This stuff is made in NEW YORK CITY!”
    I know about “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.” Is that the one you mean or is there another book?

  6. Mike^2

    Things I learned about NY from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles:
    It has sewers.
    It has a bunch of construction sites.
    Journalism is a dangerous job to work.
    Manhattan is an island, and can lift off and float in the sky.

  7. Arcane Gazebo

    I don’t know why Ghostbusters wasn’t the first movie I thought of. I have to raise an objection to Fight Club however–the city, like the narrator, seems for the most part to be intentionally anonymous, but if it’s meant to be a particular city it has to be Wilmington, DE, where most major credit card companies are headquartered. A few of the trivia items on IMDB seem to support this.
    While composing the original post, I considered embedding a YouTube video of one of the Pace commercials.

  8. Josh

    I actually don’t know why I had Fight Club on that list, since I remember thinking it was a generic city from my memory when I wrote the comment.
    I guess I must have typed it, meant to erase it, and forgotten to in due time as I had moved on to other areas of thought (i.e. thinking of other NYC-based films).
    Also, when I was writing movie suggestions, I seem to have written “NYC” as a movie rather than “American Psycho”, so my thoughts were just on another plane of existence during that particular list, or so it would seem.

  9. JSpur

    Movies- “Working Girl”- Investment banker hijinks
    Books- “Wall Street Noir,” a collection of short crime fiction that came out last year. Yours truly had one in there.

  10. Josh

    Also there are plenty of good “Fish out of water” stories for your move to NYC and being a stranger in a strange land.
    For some strange reason though, the only one I can think of is Crocodile Dundee.

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