Yes­ter­day, David Samuel Levin­son wrote about ded­i­cat­ing his first nov­el, Anto­nia Live­ly Breaks the Silence (Algo­nquin Books). He will be blog­ging here all week for Jew­ish Book Coun­cil and MyJew­ish­Learn­ing.

When some­one asks me where I’m from, I nev­er hes­i­tate to say that I’m from New York City. Then, a lit­tle ashamed, I often con­fess that I’m not real­ly from New York, that I was born and raised in San Anto­nio, Texas. While I did not spend my for­ma­tive years in the city, I have always con­sid­ered myself a New York­er, which prob­a­bly has to do with all those sum­mers I spent on Long Island with my mother’s par­ents. The day trips to Jones Beach and into the city to see a play or wan­der around Macy’s! Some of my favorite mem­o­ries still involve being stopped between sta­tions on the sub­way or the Long Island Rail­road. And then our slow approach into Penn Sta­tion and the sky­scrap­ers oblit­er­at­ing the sky and my moth­er lead­ing my broth­er and me up into the beau­ti­ful, con­gest­ed fray that is Manhattan. 

Every step I took along those over­pop­u­lat­ed side­walks, every muse­um and book­store I wan­dered through, every salty pret­zel I pulled apart and devoured — all of it was lead­ing me clos­er to my future self. At the time, I had lit­tle idea that years lat­er I’d live in and among those crowds, muse­ums, book­stores, and pret­zel carts, though I should’ve sus­pect­ed as much, giv­en my ear­ly fond­ness for the city. When I was a boy, I fell head over heels in love with the city, yet it wasn’t until I final­ly moved there as a young adult that I came to real­ly believe what Le Cor­busier meant when he said, A hun­dred times have I thought New York is a cat­a­stro­phe and 50 times: It is a beau­ti­ful catastrophe.” 

A beau­ti­ful cat­a­stro­phe, unlike any oth­er in the world, espe­cial­ly for a young man who want­ed des­per­ate­ly to become a writer. Even now, when I think about it, I am still filled with a sense of the roman­tic and haunt­ed by that ear­li­er ver­sion of myself, who tra­versed the sketch­i­er and ver­boten neigh­bor­hoods of Morn­ing­side Heights and Span­ish Harlem on his bike, who lived on 107th and Cen­tral Park West, in what was and would con­tin­ue to be for ages the biggest, most amaz­ing apart­ment he ever lived in — a door­man build­ing with view of the park, our rent only $1,400 a month. I shared the apart­ment with a friend, anoth­er Colum­bia under­grad, and even­tu­al­ly set a short sto­ry there. It was hard to leave an apart­ment like that, but leave it we had to do. After grad­u­a­tion, I moved down­town, then ulti­mate­ly to Cob­ble Hill, Brook­lyn, where I stayed for over a decade, until it was time for me to go. I had become too hard, too cov­etous of what oth­er peo­ple had, and New York was killing me. 

From there, I went to DC, then to Get­tys­burg, PA, then back to New York for a brief stint that last­ed a sum­mer and fall. Then, it was to Berlin, then back to Get­tys­burg, then Durham, NC, then Get­tys­burg yet again. Now, I am in Col­lege Sta­tion, Texas, soon to be mov­ing to Atlanta — but, but, but…I left my heart in New York, just like so many of my char­ac­ters in Anto­nia Live­ly Breaks The Silence. No mat­ter where I have gone, no mat­ter where I have lived, New York always beck­ons me back. She is an impos­si­ble place to leave for long, even more of an impos­si­ble place to untan­gle from. Just ask Anto­nia Live­ly her­self, or Hen­ry Swal­low, or Cather­ine Strayed. Just ask any of these char­ac­ters where they’d rather be and they will tell you, Well, New York City, naturally.” 

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, we do not always get to choose the places in which we live; some places choose us. Anto­nia, Hen­ry, and Cather­ine live in Winslow, a small col­lege town in upstate New York, and it chose them. It also chose me and it is where I have lived, in my imag­i­na­tion at least, for over ten years. I know the town just as well as I know New York City, per­haps even bet­ter than that, because I cre­at­ed it where­as, in some ways, New York City cre­at­ed me. 

Learn more about David Samuel Levin­son here.

DAVID SAMUEL LEVIN­SON is the author of the nov­el, Anto­nia Live­ly Breaks the Silence and the sto­ry col­lec­tion, Most of Us Are Here Against Our Will. He has been nom­i­nat­ed for the Push­cart Prize and has received fel­low­ships from Yad­do, the Jen­tel Foun­da­tion, Ledig House, the San­ta Fe Arts Insti­tute, the Sewa­nee Writ­ers’ Con­fer­ence and the Mar­guerite and Lamar Smith Fel­low­ship for Writ­ers. He has for­mer­ly served as the Emerg­ing Writer Lec­tur­er at Get­tys­burg Col­lege and as the Fel­low in Fic­tion at Emory University.