Monday, October 1, 2012

Book Review: Open City - A Novel by Teju Cole

Teju Cole, the author of Open City, indulges the reader into his interpretations of living and working in a city. His focus is on New York City with a visit to Brussels. The reader is treated to Cole’s descriptions of what he encounters on the streets, in the subway cars and inside cultural centres.

Open City concentrates on walking around the city and then stopping to visit, be it an aging Professor, or a museum or art gallery or even a coffee shop. Cole gives an account of his observations of the people he bumps into on the street or perhaps just simply noticing them on their own terms. As he enters a museum or art gallery he examines what he sees in great detail unraveling his knowledge on a particular piece he is viewing.

While on a visit to Brussels he frequents a coffee shop so that he can utilize the computers and telephones to send messages home. During these visits he befriends the employee behind the counter and engages him in thoughtful and provoking conversations about a variety of topics.

Cole is philosophical in his descriptions as he injects snippets of his background with an emphasis on his lifestyle. The reader gets an understanding of a variety of possibilities of living in a city. There is isolation, interaction with people on the street or not, engaging in a plethora of cultural events or merely going about one’s work assignments while in the city. The ending is a surprise as it is abrupt.

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