In preparation for my presentation this week, I spent some time starting new books in my list: You Talkin’ to Me?, New York, New York!: Urban Spaces, Dreamscapes, Contested Territories, and The City in Slang: New York Life and Popular Speech.
You Talkin’ to Me? has been great so far. It’s more informal than New York City English but still contains a lot of great information, and cross-references similar sources like The Social Stratification of New York City English and If These Knishes Could Talk which gives me more confidence towards my reading list. Unlike NYCE, the author is not a native New Yorker, and actually did not have “real-life” (unmediated) experiences with this linguistic variant until she was 18 years old. I’m considering this a bonus, since it provides a totally different perspective which is somewhat closer to mine (with still some variation, since she grew up in California and did experience “the New York accent” through media). I’m very excited to continue reading this.
The City in Slang has been slightly underwhelming. Although it has interesting examinations on the way city landscapes began to shape language in the modern era, I was expecting it to feel more “New York” and more “slang-y” than it does. Part of the point is that many of these expressions originated in New York and got exported to other English-speaking cities, so maybe the issue is that they’re too removed in time to feel unique to this City. Right now I’m putting it on hold in favor of other sources, but I might come back to it later on.
For New York, New York, I read the intro and last chapter in order to decide which chapters I wanted to focus on. The last chapter is a bibliography of “New York classics” spread across different categories (history books, literary non-fiction, art and architecture, film, poetry, etc) which is a great resource — and, like You Talkin’ to Me?, mentioned sources that were already on my list, which felt validating. I have four chapters to read, which hopefully should not take long.
Beyond these new readings, I also rewatched If These Knishes Could Talk to take down notes and quotes; read two chapters of City of Dreams; and prepared and recorded my presentation. Rewatching the documentary at this point of the process was great — I have a lot more context than I did originally, so the comments felt even richer. It was very helpful for the presentation, and I couldn’t help but include a quote from it into my slides. Preparing the presentation in itself was also helpful as a way to organize my thoughts and questions — this was actually the first time I drafted a clear research statement, and it feels great to have an articulated “guiding light.” City of Dreams continues to be bleak but extremely enlightening; having reached the 1920s now, I only have four chapters left. They are fairly long (about 130 pages total), but I hope I can finish the book this week.