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Jonathan Miles Reviews Notes from the Night

Jonathan Miles is a former columnist for the Sunday Styles section of the New York Times and the author of a novel, Dear American Airlines, which was named a New York Times Notable Book and a Best Book of 2008 by the Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, and Amazon.com. His next novel, Want Not, will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Notes to the Night might have been a more accurate title, because this slim, wistful memoir is, quite plainly, a love letter. To whom? The Manhattan nightlife, or more precisely a certain subspecies of that nightlife--to the style-obsessed, drug-dizzied, bass-thudded, celebutante-spangled, all-night parties that occur beyond the velvet ropes of an ever-shifting array of downtown nightclubs. In the literary world (which Taylor, as the son of the late Paris Review founder and highbrow bon vivant George Plimpton, was born smack into the white-hot center of), this scene isn’t sacred or even very familiar terrain. (Jay McInerney mined it in the ‘80s, with his novel Bright Lights, Big City, but with far more angst than affection.) Dive bars, Irish pubs, fusty old saloons, joints with depth and shaggy gravitas: these are the typical recipients of boozy mash notes from writers, rather than laser-lit clubs where conversation tends to be limited to a shouted sighting of, say, Natalie Portman. Yet Notes from the Night melts the distinctions by suggesting that, down deep, we nocturnal creatures are all after the same thing: a utopian idyll we might call the Ultimate Good Time. Plimpton (with whom, full disclosure, I’ve happily thrown back tequila shots) funnels a hundred observations, riffs, anecdotes, and lyrical meditations into an account of a single night (and morning) spent roaming New York City’s clubland. We’re beside him as he selects his clothes for the night, meets up with his ultrasmooth, Svengali-ish pal Zoo, eases past the velvet ropes, snakes his way onto the dancefloor, sees romance spark then disappear, and finally confronts the sunrise. And while Plimpton nails the au courant details of the scene, what he’s ultimately describing is a state of being, or the pursuit thereof. Notes from the Night is less a guide to afterhours Manhattan than an interior travelogue--a record of a young man taking stock of his existence, and an unabashed valentine to the places, people and substances that define (or at least enhance) that existence.

(Photo © Leah Overstreet)
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ISBN-10:  0307716228
ISBN-13:  978-0307716224
Author:  Taylor Plimpton
Publisher:  Crown Archetype
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review by . October 07, 2010
Notes From the Night is an entertaining little book that takes readers on a tour of New York City night life, or more specifically a slice of it, described by a guy who spends much of his free time trawling the downtown clubs with his buddies. Apparently some things never change, as I well recall the feeling that author Taylor Plimpton describes of being out in the night and thrilled by all of the possibilities it presents. My nights on the town took place some years ago, yet Plimpton's writing …
Notes from the Night: A Life After Dark
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