Will Eisner's "New York: Life in the Big City" is one of the most delightful ways to think about cities that I've come across. Eisner, of course, is the genius of comics, the man who created the smartest and best conventions of the medium, a mensch who conducted a life-long love-affair with New York. That love affair is documented in the vignettes, sketches, and longer stories in this 417-page volume of Eisner's collected New York work.
As Neil Gaiman notes in his introduction, this is by no means a Valentine to the city. Eisner's eyes are wide open to the tragedies of city living — just as they are to its glories. It's no Valentine, but it is, perhaps, a love-song, an agape hymn to a city that he loves for its ups and downs, it terrors and its wonders.
This is a glorious book. The longer pieces — "New York," "The Building," "City People," "Invisible People" — are fully-formed things, whole stories that manage to put an entire novel's worth of feeling into a few short pages. The vignettes are executed with such a deft hand and such a keen observer's eye that they achieve nearly as much, sometimes with just a panel or two.
This is like a graphic version of The Death and Life of Great American Cities, the kind of thing that documents the unseen and all-important symbiosis that humanity achieves with the largest organisms on the planet: our cities.
Update: Ben sez, "If you're a fan of Eisner, a fan of comics in general,
or if you're just looking for an interesting perspective on the creative
process, check out 'Will Eisner: Portrait of a Sequential Artist' at the
Tribeca Film Festival. He was an innovator in many ways."