Here’s a few words on Nigerian writer’s American debut novel published by Random House books:

In Teju Cole’s novel “Open City” (Random House, 259 pages, $25), the narrator, a Nigerian émigré named Julius, says that he has developed the habit of “aimless wandering” through New York City. He is not being coy. “Open City” obediently follows him as he ambles through Central Park, browses in bookstores, strolls through museum galleries and tours the sights around Wall Street. He is in America on a fellowship to study psychiatry; when he takes a vacation, he goes to Brussels and wanders aimlessly there.

Julius finds that the more he roams the “solitary but social territory” of the streets, the more invisible he becomes. In part because he’s an expatriate and in part because he’s attracted to an existential philosophy that exalts “being magnificently isolated from all loyalties,” Julius feels alienated from the busy neighborhoods he passes through and the garrulous people he meets. Yet there remains a vague purpose to his purposelessness, a low-simmering desire to recognize himself in his surroundings: “I wanted to find the line that connected me to my own part in these stories.”

Not having read the book yet, what fascinates me the most about what I’ve read is the premise on which the book is based – the very nuanced nature of cities (and towns) and what they can offer us either at the level of imagination, or merely at face value. A new short story set in Edwardsville? Why not?

More on the book here and here in the New Yorker.

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