GKC on NYC from What I Saw in America
When I had looked at the lights of Broadway by night, I made to my American friends an innocent remark that seemed for some reason to amuse them. I had looked, not without joy, at that long kaleidoscope of coloured lights arranged in large letters and sprawling trade-marks, advertising everything, from pork to pianos, through the agency of the two most vivid and most mystical of the gifts of God; colour and fire. I said to them, in my simplicity, ‘What a glorious garden of wonders this would be, to anyone who was lucky enough to be unable to read.’
New York is a cosmopolitan city, but it is not a city of cosmopolitans. Most of the masses in New York have a nation whether or no it be the nation to which New York belongs…They are exiles or they are citizens; there is no moment when they are cosmopolitans. But very often the exiles bring with them not only rooted traditions, but rooted truths.
One of the first questions I was asked was how I should be disposed to explain the wave of crime in New York. Naturally I replied that it might possibly be due to the number of English lecturers who had recently landed.
There is one point, almost to be called a paradox, to be noted about New York; and that in one sense it is really new…in the sense that it is always being renewed. For New York considered in itself is primarily a place of unrest, and those who sincerely love it, as many do, love it for the romance of its restlessness.