The Oysters in the Spire

We are excited about the forthcoming publication of Nonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas, the final volume in our trilogy of atlases by Rebecca Solnit, Joshua Jelly-Schapiro, and a host of notable contributors. Following the publication of the critically lauded Infinite City (San Francisco) and Unfathomable City (New Orleans), we bring you this homage—and challenge—to the way we know New York City, an exquisitely designed and gorgeously illustrated atlas that excavates the many buried layers of all five boroughs of New York City (and parts of New Jersey!). With this inaugural post, we launch a weekly series to bring you inside the books, share the process of creating them, and announce news, reviews, and events. Enjoy! We think you will appreciate it as much as we do!

The “Wildlife” map and its accompanying essay celebrate places and people who resisted and rebelled against the status quo in New York, including Angie Xtravaganza, founding member of the House of Xtravaganza, and the Chelsea piers, a free space for celebration and erotic encounters from the 1970s to the 1990s. The map juxtaposes these against the city’s elusive but omnipresent nonhuman population—the turtle species that live in Central Park, the muskrats in Lower Manhattan, and the coyotes that attended Columbia. While some wild species are on or over the brink of extinction—the endangered piping plovers at Rockaway Beach, the minks that used to be found in the Bronx—others, such as rats, cockroaches, pigeons, and bedbugs, are hardy survivors. And some—including the bulls and bears of Wall Street—exist only in our imagination. Together the map and essay explore how New York remains “a place of wildlife but also of wild life and wild lives.”

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Our inspiration for this map was the art of Tino Rodriguez, a perpetual metamorphosis in which humans grow wings and breath takes the form of a bird and men’s bodies as well as women’s can be tender, flower-bedecked, mortal, carnal, spiritual—a world in which nothing is separated by category or species. His paintings are reminders that the natural world comes right into the city and asserts itself in a lover’s bouquet, a funeral wreath, in the ways animals furnish our imagination and the animals we catch sight of lift our spirits or break us out of our routine. This is a map about the forces that break the routines of the city, about the dissident forces that are in some ways life itself—life that existed before the orderly city of authority, outside it, despite it, and will live after it—forces that include saints and lovers, humans and animals, birdwatchers and nightclubbers.

—Rebecca Solnit and Joshua Jelly-Schapiro

Nonstop Metropolis conveys innumerable, unbound experiences of New York City through 26 imaginative maps and informative essays. Preorder your copy today.