John Rechy's City Of Night Is A Must Read

John Rechy's City Of Night Is A Must Read

Though it's over 50 years old, the LGBTQ classic reads like a contemporary treatment on questions of identity, loneliness, and New York City.

Though it's over 50 years old, the LGBTQ classic reads like a contemporary treatment on questions of identity, loneliness, and New York City.

Text: Christina Cacouris

Over 50 years ago, John Rechy started writing semi-autobiographical anecdotes about life as a male hustler on the streets of Times Square, publishing them one by one in literary journals. They ultimately came together as City of Night, "A novel about America," as the jacket reads.

But more than that, it's a book about loneliness. About wandering. About lust and love, about the vulnerability of opening yourself up to another person, about fear. "I had an acute sense of the incompleteness intrinsic in sharing in another's life," writes Rechy. "You touch those lives, barely — however intimately it may be sexually — you may sense things roiling in them. Yet the climax in your immediate relationship with them is merely an interlude. Their lives will continue, you'll merely step out. A series of encounters multiplying geometrically... a prismatic network of ... interviews."

Fans of The Doors may find the book's title familiar — Jim Morrison wrote "L.A. Woman" as an ode to the book, singing "Are you a lucky little lady in the City of Light/Or just another lost angel?/City of Night/City of Night." Morrison wasn't the only one to pay homage: Gus Van Sant's My Own Private Idaho was in part based on the novel.

A book that's integral to the LGBTQ canon, it also contains incredibly poetic descriptions of the neon-lit world of New York, and though the setting may be well before the time of many who read it, its timeless quality is a testament to the universality of the emotions it expresses, and the fact that though it's constantly shifting, New York will always stay the same: a veritable city of night.

Credits: IMAGE COURTESY OF SOUVENIR PRESS

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