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Goodbye to All That: Writers on Loving and Leaving New York

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  2,779 ratings  ·  278 reviews
From Roxane Gay to Leslie Jamison, thirty brilliant writers share their timeless stories about the everlasting magic—and occasional misery—of living in the Big Apple.

In this classic collection, thirty writers share their own stories of loving and leaving New York, capturing the mesmerizing allure the city has always had for writers, poets, and wandering spirits. Their essa
Paperback, 288 pages
Published October 8th 2013 by Seal Press (first published September 24th 2013)
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David Wingrave
Dec 02, 2013 rated it did not like it
Every essay:

I wanted to come to New York because it seemed cool, and where I'm from people wouldn't know cool if it froze their nuts! Then I did a bunch of stuff and got fed up and moved upstate because you get tired y'know? If only my younger self could see me! No, jk, they'd be proud, because this was the plan all along. And I am proud! And everyone I know is proud of me too! Including my younger self! Also, I still keep my metrocard in my wallet to remind me who I am: A person proud to have h
Sari Botton
Sep 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)
Well... full disclosure...I edited this book. And conceived of it in general. And wrote the intro, an essay, and more. So, I'm not exactly impartial. ...more
Oct 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
My first-hand experience with New York City took place in August 1971 as a small boy on holiday to visit relatives there. In the intervening years, I’ve visited New York 4 other times, seeing it from a variety of angles and perspectives. But never with a desire to live there. “Too big, too crazy”, I’d always say to myself. Notwithstanding that, I have had at times an overweening curiosity as to why other people (outsiders to the Big Apple, like me) have fallen so deeply, passionately IN LOVE wit ...more
Hannah Garden
Dec 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
Of my friends who have left New York, most of them have left for the sort of torn, bittersweet reasons that most of the writers in this anthology have left for--more space is available elsewhere, more time, exhausted by the embarrassing rents, going to graduate school, having grown up here and wearied of it, realizing that the promise of a new self is just an inside job and you don't have to stay here to pull it off (and in some cases have to move on in order to)--and, by and large, are not dick ...more
John Treat
Oct 27, 2014 rated it did not like it
Terrible book. I couldn't finish it, because it was like being trapped in a summer internship at Seventeen Magazine. Let me explain. All the contributors are women for some odd reason, and this is the effect: the contributors all "love" and "hate" New York in the same ditzy emotional ways they love and hate the men (mostly losers) who seem to govern their choices over where to live. Look, it's just a city. No more, no less. Everyone in this book needs to get over themselves, and go live in Dubuq ...more
Lady H
Jun 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2020
I started reading this book because, as a native New Yorker desperate to leave New York, I was curious to read about other perspectives. In that sense, this essay collection was a bit of a disappointment, because most of the essays were from transplants rather than natives, and even the natives shared nothing in common with my experience: they were all white or somewhat wealthy, and all from Manhattan. More generally speaking, I was disappointed that most of the contributors to this book are mid ...more
Nov 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: queens-book-club
This is a rough book to read, if you've recently hit the 5 years in New York mark and are contemplating an exit, if only to the 'burbs. It's a nostalgia ride, nostalgia for a place this is still in the present time, feeling the eventual loss before it's even happened.

But before I slip into an emotional reverie about living in or out of New York City, I want to comment on the actual collection of essays. Reading it felt a bit like an anthology version of the movie Groundhog Day , starting each e
Sep 22, 2013 rated it it was ok
I couldn't finish it.

Super boring.

Plus almost all of the stories are written from the perspective of people who are not native New Yorkers. It's a bunch of whiny people who came and tried to make it.

I think the book would have been a lot better were it from the view of a native New Yorkers who no longer wanted to struggle in the dog-eat-dog aspect of this city.

That would have made for an entirely better book, IMHO.
Amy Schrauf
Dec 11, 2014 rated it did not like it
Whiney, entitled late 20 something women who thought going to NY would transform them into interesting, non whiney, entitled jerks. Most moved away due to having kids and succumbing to a life of boredom in the suburbs or not being able to accept the reality of needing a real job. One writer was actually a NYC native, and she was different only in the way that she whined about NY and how it used to be cool, man. Maybe 2 essays in this book were worthwhile. TL;DR: What a pile of piss.
Nov 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I was quite proud of myself (smug, really) because I had the great idea to give this to a friend who was leaving NYC for Silicon Valley. She was touched. So far so good.

Then I bought a copy for myself because I love half the writers in this collection (Roxane Gay! Dani Shapiro! Cheryl Strayed!) and was looking forward to discovering the others. So I read the book in a day, and loved it, but now I understand a little too well why most of the writers left.

I recommend this for anyone who: hates N
Oct 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
Oh this book!

I picked it up in an independent book store in Brooklyn, the day before I too was leaving New York to head back home. It was only a weekend, but I felt the pain (and pangs!) described in this book accurately - as well as the fairy-tale love stories also described so wonderfully.

If you hate New York (1. i don't understand you) you will hate this book. But if you dream of it, with complexity, or if you live there, also with complexity, you will find great meaning in it. And of course,
Summer Smith
Apr 08, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2021
Just like leaving New York, this book is heartbreaking and joyous. Goodbye to All That is an ode to the greatest City and the greatest relief to write that last rent check.
Aug 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
What a great collection! The essays are inspired by a Joan Didion essay of the same name. The stories are varied, well written and thoughtful. The anecdotes are raw and will touch you emotionally. These are warts and all tales of New York.

Song to listen to while reading: New York, I Love You But You're Bringing Me Down by LCD Soundsystems.

Please leave your song of choice in the comments section.

I received an advanced reading copy from Net Galley.
Lauren F.
Aug 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
If you've ever daydreamed about escaping the city you love, wondered how people manage to pursue creative careers in NYC, or returned from a weekend away with more reluctance than relief, read this book. The all-too-relatable topic is why I picked it up, but it turns out this is also a lovingly curated collection of some of the best contemporary writers and essayists who have—at some point—passed through the five boroughs. I read it cover to cover, and if there were a sequel, I'd read that too. ...more
Jan 24, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nyc
I took my time with this book. The essays are similar enough that I needed breaks in between otherwise they would start blending together. But in almost every one I found a line or a paragraph that perfectly captured one of my own feelings about living in New York. The quote I will remember most acutely, as someone who has never owned a car or even rented one myself: "Keep your dawn-splashed canyons and soaring cathedrals; keep your pyramids, your temples, your gold-domed pagodas rising above an ...more
Oct 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A magnificent anthology! I started with Botton's follow-up anthology, Never Can Say Goodbye: Writers on Their Unshakable Love for New York, which was strong, and had some highly memorable essays, but definitely some misses. In her first collection, Goodbye to All That: Writers on Loving and Leaving New York there wasn't a bad one in the bunch. I absolutely loved the many stories of young, aspiring writers making their way to NYC in the 70s, 80s, 90s, and early 2000s. Each met a slightly diff ...more
Jan 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
I loved these memoirs. It made me remember that New York is not mine and nor do I belong to New York! There's a life out there other than what's here. When you're in New York for too long, you tend to forget that you can be successful somewhere else and looking back life in new york is hard. Its not all its cracked up to be. You can never be rich enough to afford the ever changing city and sometimes with wealth comes disillusion.

All of these writers once thought that New York was theirs. Some p
Jan 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
I was born and raised in NYC, and also left. Although I did not share the experience of arriving in NYC to write (I am not a writer and I don't think being born counts as arriving in this sense), there were some lines that felt as though they were plucked from my memory. Many descriptions left me at once homesick, and glad that I didn't have to live there for long as an adult. The authors did a good job of capturing the feeling of NYC. ...more
Jul 29, 2015 rated it did not like it
The number of writers here who cite their sex lives as the first casualty of 9/11 is astonishing.
Jul 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
“There is the ache of not having another place in the world where I might ever feel so alive and alone, invisible while visible, ever again. Alone in exactly the right kind of way.”

Goodbye to All That: Writers on Loving and Leaving New York is a collection of essays from writers who have loved, left and maybe still long for those days when they could write and live in New York.

(This review combines this essay collection with the second collection Never Can Say Goodbye: Writers on Their Unshaka
Apr 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I loved this anthology of accounts written by women from many differing backgrounds and indeed eras of their experiences falling in love with, and then recognising the need to, leave New York at some point in their lives. Having a love for the city myself, albeit as an occasional tourist and through my reading, I enjoyed both the settings of the tales and the experience of the writers, and am delighted that I purchased the follow up to this book, Never Can Say Goodbye: Writers on Their Unshakabl ...more
Ashley Bergman Carlin
Nov 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nyc
I bought this book at the Strand in New York last May, when I was there last. But at the end of the trip I was ready to come home, to say goodbye to all that, and thought that perhaps my love affair with the city was over. This book seemed like it might sit on my shelf, unread. But last week I woke up missing the city, again, and remembered that this collection was waiting for me. I picked it up and swallowed it pretty quickly, wanting each essay to go on forever but anxious to read the next. I ...more
Bless you citizen Kerry! I read this in one day.

Sitting very still in a Brooklyn apartment and trying not to spend money via not moving my limbs, I would google and Google and google, looking for Exactly This. I will add my search terms so hopefully versions of me trapped in despair that only a psychiatrist prescribing medical food would admit was caused by stupid New York: "people who leave New York and are happier" "why do I hate New York" "is New York terrible" "books about people who left N
MaryJane Brodeck
Nov 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
The twenty-eight essays included in this book are inspired by the famous Joan Didion essay of the same name. Established and emerging writers share their love affair with New York, initially drawn by its manic energy and frenzied pace. As years pass, they also share the grief that blindsided them, when the city loses its magic and the pressures of New York’s frenetic life wear thin on even the most resilient. After achieving success in their writing careers, the cons of living in New York outwei ...more
Jules Ray
Aug 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
Thank you to Netgalley and Sari Botton for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

What a lovely book! Maybe that's a little sappy but for this gal who moved to NYC as a 16 y.o., left, came back, and moved away again I really knew what these contributors felt about the wonderful city of New York.

This book reveals the experiences, both positive and tragic and everything in between, of writers who moved to and from NYC at various stages of their careers. Each one was better than the previous and
May 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone currently living in NYC
In reality, I think I'd give this a 3.5 stars. There were stories I loved, stories I liked, and some that couldn't hold my attention in the hour and a half I was waiting for my laundry to finish. However, that being said, I could definitely relate to most of the stories in here. And it made me once again nostalgic for a NYC I've never known. I wanted to be part of the NYC of the 60's 70's, and 80's. The NYC my mom grew up in. The NYC artists thrived in. I wanted to feel that kinetic energy these ...more
Jun 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Jessica by: Beca Grimm
Shelves: non-fiction, 2014
I thoroughly enjoyed this collection of writers' experiences living, loving, and leaving New York. Most relatable for the likes of me in terms of living here now (going on eight years), and because they are all essays in tribute to one of my favorite essays of all time, Joan Didion's "Goodbye to All That." All of these writers have lived different lives and at different times -- there's a range of ages, a range of 'New Yorks,' but every New York is the same. Perhaps I wasn't buying heroin or wav ...more
Dani Kass
Jan 31, 2019 rated it it was ok
This book is on every millennial bookshelf or coffee table in NYC, and for a reason: it has a beautiful design, it sounds romantic, it references Queen Didion and it holds the true thoughts we all feel about how hard and wonderful living in New York is. But most of us never open it, and maybe it should stay that way.

Most of these follow a really similar format, and they've very personal. But they're not personal in a way that hits a deep universal feeling, they're personal in a what-I-did-with-m
Chanita Chayaluk
Nov 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Who needs to hop on a plane back to the Big Apple when you've got 28 short essays that will take you back to right where your heart belongs. Despite having read stories from 28 different authors, one thing is the same: the indescribable love for NYC. People flock to the city with high ambitions, hope, and a need for a fresh start. Lost in the energy of a small island of 8 million people, it is easy to glorify pain as excitement. But it is these very experiences that shape anyone who has ever liv ...more
Jenn Estepp
I liked this one better than the "loving and staying forever in New York" collection. Is that because this is, realistically, a better representation of my current head/heart space? Perhaps, but I also think it benefits from being the first conceived - it feels like it was probably in the works for longer and, as such, Botton had longer to assemble the essays and was a little more choosy with them in terms of quality. There are great writers present here and I found the essays pretty strong, mor ...more
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“The city had seemed like a great place to discover who you are. It just seemed that there was a lot to experience here, as if all you had to do was show up and the city would take care of the rest, making sure you got the education, the maturing, the wising-up you needed. Its crowds, the noise, the endlessness of it all, the perpetual motion, felt exciting then—revealing—just the deep end I needed to jump into. There is something unique about New York, some quality, some matchless, pertinent combination of promise and despair, wizardry and counterfeit, abundance and depletion, that stimulates and allows for a reckoning to occur—maybe even forces it. The city pulls back the curtain on who you are; it tests you and shows you what you are made of in a way that has become iconic in our popular culture, and with good reason.” 11 likes
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