Mapping Manhattan_Becky Cooper

“From one urban explorer to another,” wrote author Becky Cooper in our copy of her new book, Mapping Manhattan: A Love (and Sometimes Hate) Story in Maps by 75 New YorkersThe concept is simple, but executed brilliantly. In the summer of 2009, Cooper walked the length of Broadway in Manhattan, handing out self-addressed stamped cards that were letter pressed with an outline map of Manhattan. She asked people to map their memories, filling it with whatever was meaningful to them.

The book is a compilation, organized by themes like, “Migration Patterns” (which included a map of lost gloves), The Frontier (maps showing a horizontal line where residents had not been north of on Manhattan), and Commuting. Other topics are direct quotes from the map creators themselves, like “In New York, people think we are rude; we just have MONSTER ambitions,” or that New York is a “venerable ‘Disneyland’ for old folks, of which I am one.” Love, dreams, loss, teleportation, infrastruture, riots, “Land that Duane Reade Forgot” (apparently Staten Island), the ubiquity of Starbucks, also figure into the collection.

Some are sparingly drawn, others, artistic masterpieces. All reflect the richness of experience that is New York, capturing the depth of human optimism and folly, with New York branded humor balanced with touches of eloquence and personal self-realization.

Apart from strangers, Cooper also reached out to some of her idols, including:

  • Vahram Muratyan, creator of Paris v. New York: A Tally of Two Cities, who drew a “Paradox Alert: Strangely enough looking for green in the city of glass & steel”
  • Actor and playwright Harvey Fierstein who mapped his productions and wrote “I also used to think of Manhattan as STEAK shaped but now I see it’s a CHICKEN CUTLET”
  • Katharine Harmon, author of Map as Artlocating her meeting with Lulu the Gorilla in Central Park, as well as a lunch with Salvador Dali and his ocelot
  • Malcolm Gladwell, drawing an arrow to “Williamsburg: I keep threatening to move there.”
  • Matt Green, who is walking all the streets of Manhattan, titled his: “A Pedestrian’s Guide to Leaving Manhattan & Exploring the Rest of the World (or at least the rest of New York City”, writing “Just remember: left foot right foot left foot right foot left foot right foot left foot right foot.”
  • David Chang of Momofuku locating some of his favorite restaurants by collage
  • Philippe Petit, who tightroped on a wire between the Twin Towers in 1974, drawing out his 35 years in NYC in three steps

The last drawing is Cooper’s herself, who writes against a backdrop of tenement fire escapes and the Brooklyn Bridge, “New York, name it whatever you like; the name hardly matters because entering from the greater reality of elsewhere, one is only in search of a city, a place to hide, to lose or discover oneself, to make a dream wherein you prove that perhaps after all you are not one ugly duckling but wonderful and worthy of love.”

Mapping Manhattan is certainly worthy of joining your collection of favorite graphic New York City books, like Christoph Neimann’s I Lego NY and Vahram Muratyan’s Paris v. New York: A Tally of Two Cities. We’ll be selling autographed copies of Mapping Manhattan at The Untapped Cities live illustration event “Parisians v. New Yorkers,” on April 20th at The New York Travel Festival. Cooper’s project is also on-going, so check out more here.