Title: Ghost Town: Tales of Manhattan Then and Now
Author: Patrick McGrath
Publisher: Bloomsbury UK
Source: Received Turkish copy from Turkish publisher for review
A man is haunted by the memory of his mother standing under a gibbet with a rope round her neck. It is the American War of Independence, and having defied the British forces occupying New York she must pay for her revolutionary activities. But fifty years on her son harbours a festering guilt for his inadvertent part in her downfall. Then, in a nineteenth-century New York of thrusting commercial enterprise, a ruthless merchant's sensitive son is denied the love of his life through his father's prejudice against the immigrants then flooding into the city - and madness and violence ensue. Finally, a Manhattan psychiatrist tries to treat a favoured patient reeling from the destruction of the World Trade Centre. But she fails to detect the damage she herself has sustained, and suffers the consequences of her blindness.
"Actually, no city is the city you see today."*
I'm sure this is true for every city. However, when it comes to a city like New York, a city that's colorful all the time as well as weird and alive, a city that never sleeps, a city that has people running all over all the time I'm sure has been through a lot. This is the kind of journey Patrick McGrath takes readers on-- we start off in the 1700's New York, move onto 19th century New York and come to an end with a 9/11 story.
Even if you've never been to New York, you know the city McGrath describes very well from movies and TV shows. However, we've never sneaked a peak at his characters since we were busy following up on others. Even though the three stores in the book take place in three different times, you understand when you read Ghost Town why New York is in the heart of many movies, books, stories and poems. Those who've been to the city will know that people, smells, colors, the old and the new, the low and the high, the clean and the dirty are all intertwined. While you smell daisies, the smell of fried chicken might poke at your nostrils. When you get a $10 doughnut and walk down in So-Ho, a toothless, dirty-handed homeless person might pull at your arm. Just 'cos you wear $1000 shoes doesn't save you from the possibility of someone puking on them on the subway.
McGrath craftfully shows the vibration of the city, how it breathes in and out, how people make their own way within all of this movement.
*Translated to English by myself from the Turkish translation; might not be 100% accurate.