The City Out My Window: 63 Views on New York

No matter the book or the artwork, Matteo Pericoli always celebrates unique points of view only he could provide, be it the undulating perimeter of Manhattan island from its rivers; one of his children’s book characters; or a 397-foot, block-plus-long mural featuring architectural highlights from 70 cities from around the globe for John F. Kennedy International Airport. His latest work, The City Out My Window: 63 Views on New York, may be comparatively diminutive in physical scale but is certainly no less an achievement — as anyone who has ever attempted to collaborate with a New York celebrity (much less 63!) will appreciate. Pericoli credits Saul Steinberg’s much-reproduced illustration for the New Yorker cover “View of the World from 9th Avenue” for inspiring him. While that image lampooned Manhattanites for their warped umbilicus-mundi complex, Pericoli took that idea and ran with it in an opposite, far more literal, though still delightful endeavor. In this book, Pericoli presents his images — rendered in his affectionately accurate architectural idiom — as the illustration to the idiomatic narration of each intelligentsia member who was game enough to show his or her personal window on New York City to this most unconventional voyeur.

The bold names and hipsters range from chef/TV personality Mario Batali to former Talking Heads lead singer/bicycle advocate David Byrne; singer/famous widow Rosanne Cash to neurologist/writer Oliver Sacks. Poet Meghan O’Rourke says of her window-scape, “When I’m writing poetry, all this natural and man-made muttering can be an inspiration.”

Even when the quotes disappoint, the images do not. They are mesmerizingly pure in their their lack of shadow, of shaping, of judgment. Pericoli clearly strives to provide what he sees there flatly, without interpreting. The reader remains free to react, to disagree, to sometimes marvel at the irony or the agenda of the narrator. (Such as when  New York Times publisher Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr. seems to be selling commercial real estate: “I peer through state-of-the-art, ultraclear glass revealing wonderful, old New York with its majestic…”)

Ultimately, this book delivers that authentic — though not postcard-worthy — insider’s view of New York City that so many guidebooks promise but few outsiders ever get to enjoy. My only criticism is, why not have more? Sixty-three is a frustratingly random number. (Pericoli says he contacted over 100 people, but still..!) Petulance aside, my hope is that Pericoli will continue his idiosyncratic projects and continue to have fun divining fresh points of view that he can share with us all.