"Songs to New York” is a light-hearted and tender anthology of ten short stories, with overtly bountiful references to the author’s love affair with her home city – a quality which I, as a proud Londoner, relate to completely, and find more than a little endearing.
These sometimes mystical, sometimes fantastical, and always utterly charming tales are loaded with metaphors, commonly underpinned by two in particular: the city itself, as a breathing, living, warm and loving being, and the comforting embrace of faith in God. Each is very different, though all have their own combination of the elements: melancholy, culture and wonder - I found them all a delight to read; in fact, it would take somebody hard of heart not to feel the same, or to acknowledge that Myrtle’s love affair with New York is worn on her sleeve, in a manner which makes you happy for her.
It is difficult to pick a favourite, though the one which struck the loudest chord with me has to be the fourth - “The Bar” - about a man dreaming of the city he left, and misses it like family. There are big references to God in the book as a whole, and I did, occasionally, worry that it might veer too much into this area for my own tastes, but, in truth, it didn’t – I feel there was just enough of the faith element to add real charm to the stories, much like the traces that still make Christmas special; that’s what this book reminded me of at times: Christmas – even though none of the tales were actually about it. This is probably due in no small part to the fact that all are about warmth, humanity and empathy, as if a clear attempt by Myrtle to dispel the unfair myth and stereotype of uncaring and rude city-dwellers – the fact that Myrtle has chosen to name them songs “to”, rather than “of” New York, tells the reader a lot about her motivation in writing this book. The stories all have a subtle message, or moral, and resemble fables a touch, or perhaps – based on the collection’s title – psalms.
The stories are easy to read, and with a smile. I did find one or two of them overly philosophical, though this is clearly the point, of course, and is by no means a disparaging observation. Myrtle is a very good writer, and a good, innocent story-teller. Sadly, although the quality of her prose is wonderful, I did take issue with a great deal of the punctuation, which I feel needs polishing, and does adversely affect the flow, which is a shame.
This aside, though, “Songs to New York” is a lovely book, for many reasons, a pleasure to read, and I do recommend it as a welcome relief from the more serious side of life.
In : Book Reviews
Tags: myrtle-brooks short-stories new-york fiction fantasy