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What Lies Beneath Nyc?

TNR managing editor Katherine Marsh wrote a lovely piece for the Times "City" section about New York's underground world in the popular imagination, from Ellison to Whitehead. The piece comes out of Kate's experience writing her slightly highbrow and extremely brilliant young-adult novel, The Night Tourist. Kate writes:

Part of the allure of New York’s underground worlds is that they actually exist. Because of the city’s density, much of its infrastructure is tucked beneath it, not only trains, subways and shopping arcades but also electric lines, sewers and water tunnels. New Yorkers journey into this subterranean world every day, casually and almost unthinkingly.

At the same time, the city’s underground offers a sense of vastness and possibility. Although the so-called rail-fan window is fast disappearing from the city’s subway cars, who hasn’t stood looking out the window of the first car of a train and glimpsed enticingly abandoned tunnels and locked doors?

In an island city as small and densely packed as Manhattan, the underground serves as a physical frontier. But it also serves as a psychological frontier, arguably even more so than do the undergrounds of London and Paris. In New York, something about the fantasy subterranean world appeals powerfully to the psyche of the city’s residents.

 Read the whole article here

--Ben Wasserstein