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Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: October 30, 2007
ISBN: 9780312538910
ISBN10: 031253891X

The Fulton Fish Market circa 2005.
McSorley’s Old Ale House- a New York institution since 1854.
The majestic Plaza Hotel Courtesy of

With a poet’s clear eye and a journalist’s curiosity about how a city works, Dan Barry shows us New York as no other writer has seen it.

Evocative, intimate, piercing, and often funny, the essays in City Lights capture everyday life in the city at its most ordinary and extraordinary. Wandering the city as a columnist for The New York Times, Barry visits the denizens of the Fulton Fish Market on the eve of its closing; journeys with an obsessed guide through the secret underground of abandoned subway stops, tunnels, and aqueducts; touches down in bars, hospitals, churches, diners, pools, zoos, memorabilia-stuffed apartments, at births and funerals, the places where people gather, are welcomed, or depart; talks to the ex-athlete who caught the falling baby, the performance artist who works as a mermaid, the octogenarian dancers who find quiet joy in their partnership, and the guy who waves flags over the Cross-Bronx Expressway to wish drivers safe passage.

Along the way, Barry offers glimpses of New York’s distant and recent past. He explains why the dust-coated wishbones hanging above the bar at McSorley’s Old Ale House belong to the doughboy ghosts of World War I. He recalls a century of grandeur at the Plaza Hotel throught the tales of longtime doormen who will soon be out of a job. He finds that an old man’s quiet death opens back into a past that the man had spent his life denying. And, from the vantage of the Circle Line cruise around Manhattan, he joins tourists as they try to make sense of still-smoldering ruins in Lower Manhattan three weeks after September 11, 2001.

Each story in City Lights illuminates New York, as it was and as it is: always changing, always losing and renewing parts of itself, every street corner an opportunity for surprise and revelation.


New York Times

Nov. 4, 2007 – Review by Meryl Gordon. “It’s easy to wake up and spend a day in New York and not notice the wonder of it all…” Full Review

Boston Globe

Dec. 24, 2007 – Review by Robert Braile. “…New York emerges as a moral and ethical landscape, much like Charles Dickens’s London, with humanity the measure of the city.”

Providence Journal

Nov. 25, 2007 – Review by Sam Coale. “…These are the marginalized, not the glitterati we’re accustomed to seeing along the Great White Way but ordinary folk (although Barry has a sharp eye to find the extraordinary among the supposedly ordinary) in routine jobs, usually the third or fourth generation carrying on family traditions.”


Jun. 15, 2008 – Review by Bill Ruelmann. “LET’S BEGIN on a winter night with pajamaed Nicole Walkes, 19, crouched on the front porch roof of her burning house in Brooklyn.” Full Review

Buffalo News

Jan. 6, 2008 – Review by Lee Coppola. “City Lights finds nuggets in New York that only a person tuned to human pathos, to human foibles, to human frailties, can find. His stories leave readers amused, horrified and enlightened, but most of all appreciative.”

Irish Voice

Nov. 7, 2007 – Review by Cahir O’Doherty. “Gifted with a poet’s eye for detail, and a historian’s ability to see the ghostly connections between the past and the present,..” Full Review


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