Recommended Reading: “Durch Manhattan” by Leanne Shapton & Niklas Maak

Illustration: ©Leanne Shapton

Durch Manhattan is the story of a journey in which both author Niklas Maak and author/artist Leanne Shapton’s impressions meet

A single trip across Manhattan: Niklas Maak and Leanne Shapton’s new book is a model example of teamwork. Maak is an editor at FAZ, author of numerous books in the field of architecture, and taught at Harvard and as a guest professor in Frankfurt am Main. Shapton is an artist known for her watercolors who is also the author of inspiring works like Swimming Studies and Was She Pretty? We interviewed her here after Woman in Clothes came out in 2014, which she co-wrote with Sheila Heti and Heidi Julavits. At the time, the treatment of this special publication already reminded me of a social study. Her previous work Important Artifacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris tells the story of a couple in the form of an auction catalog. Observation, then, would appear to be her strength, making Durch Manhattan a wonderful symbiosis of Leanne Shapton and Niklas Maak’s different perspectives. They look at a place almost every reader will have their own pre-existing idea of, and yet they still manage – of course – to place it into a new context.

Their journey through the borough begins way down in the south, at Staten Island Terminal, a point at which, for many, a new life began. Leanne Shapton and Niklas Maak then drew a line up to the very north – the experiment ends at 222nd Street. Probably the best aspect of this book is the fact that you’re witnessing a never-ending walk, two bright minds sharing their impressions and everything that they see.

And as Shapton likes it, you won’t find reflections on society missing here: what was, what is, and how things have changed in a place that the entire world looks to, because it is here that the concepts of progress and the big city come together in a very special way, in a country that Europe often subjects to cultural scrutiny. The stories being told here are those of immigrants, a melting pot of cultures that is so natural and that awakens the desire to be different – it seldom felt so good to read these lines.

Niklas Maak answers five questions about the book on the publisher’s website. Here’s my favorite:

What surprised you the most during your two-day tour from the southern to the north tip of Manhattan?

That Manhattan north of Central Park has mountains, forests, and canyons. Of course, also the people you meet: The Chinese guy taking apart old cellphones in the early morning with a small hammer like an oystercatcher; the Apple employee who, like a surgeon on night duty in the emergency room, reassures screaming and crying people whose phone fell in the toilet or whose computer crashed and who carry their devices like severely injured people to the bright neon Apple emergency service at Central Park; Jon Girodes, an ex-model and Republican politician who was arrested shortly after we met him; the daughter of a German Jew who fled Berlin as a child in 1938; the old man who’s lived in the same house in Washington Heights since he was born; the protesters; the last Italians of Little Italy; the sad couple in Washington Square Park; the beautiful homeless woman who sleeps with her dog on Rockaway Beach in the summer, but otherwise in Central Park.

Durch Manhattan

von Niklas Maak & Leanne Shapton, € 25 via Amazon

A presentation of the book Durch Manhattan will also take place on the occasion of Leanne Shapton’s Manhattan paintings exhibition opening on September 29th at 7pm at König Galerie St. Agnes, Alexandrinenstr. 118-121, Berlin (more information is available on Facebook here). Two additional readings are also planned. The first will take place on Saturday, October 7th at 12noon at markilux in Stilwerk, Kantstr. 17, Berlin. The second will be on Thursday, February 22nd 2018 at 7:30pm at Buchhandlung Boysen & Mauke, Große Johannisstraße 19, Hamburg.

Translation: Melissa Frost

Julia co-founded one of the first fashion blogs in Germany in 2007 and became a freelance consultant for digital strategies after publishing her first book in 2010. After an eventful four years with Condé Nast working mainly in the digital department of Vogue Germany, she decided to launch her own online magazine with her dream partner, Veronika Heilbrunner. She is based in Berlin and loves to read books.