Authors have an impressive way of helpings us form images in our head when reading their work, but when these authors use use NYC as the setting in their writing it makes it that much easier for us as readers to fully imagine the story.
From NYC’s gorgeous parks and luxurious hotels to its iconic museums, there’s endless possibilities for stories to be set in the city. Here are 7 places in NYC that have served as literary inspiration.
1. The Plaza Hotel
We all know the story of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, a story of drama, betrayal, and lost love. Though it’s primarily set during the Jazz Age on Long Island, New York City does make its appearance–and in a story that’s constantly revolved around lavish parties, where better than the luxurious Plaza Hotel on Central Park South?!
The iconic Plaza Hotel scene plays out in chapter seven, when Gatsby, Daisy, Tom, Nick, and Jordan head there on a broiling hot day. In this scene, Daisy, who is supposed to break off her marriage with her emotionally abusive husband Tom and tell him that she never loved him, instead sides with him.
P.S. you can experience the drama, red-hot rhythms, and pure jazz age self-indulgence of The Great Gatsby for yourself at The Great Gatsby – The Immersive Show!
2. The Museum of Natural History
NYC is full of iconic museums, with The Museum of Natural History being one of its most famous ones, so it’s no surprise this museum has served as inspiration for many a writer (you may have even seen exterior clips of it in Night at the Museum). But on paper it also made an appearance in J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye.
While exploring NYC Narrator Holden Caulfield states:
Even though it was Sunday and Phoebe wouldn’t be there with her class or anything, and even though it was so damp and lousy out, I walked all the way through the park over to the Museum of Natural History. I knew that was the museum the kid with the skate key meant. I knew that whole museum routine like a book. Phoebe went to the same school I went to when I was a kid, and we used to go there all the time.
3. Grand Central Terminal
Beyond Holden Caulfield’s visit to The Museum of Natural History, the Catcher in the Rye protagonist also takes a trip to Grand Central Station.
After checking out of the Edmont, the hotel he was staying at on his journey through NYC, he heads to Grand Central Terminal. Caulfield leaves his bags here before picking up theater tickets he needed after making a date to see a play with his old friend Sally Hayes. Caulfield also visited the theatre, Central Park, and several bars including Ernie’s.
4. The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Another NYC museum makes an appearance in Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence. This 1920 novel, which earned Wharton the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1921, explores the lavish Golden Age of Old New York.
Though protagonist Newland Archer, a wealthy young lawyer, was married to debutante May Well, he falls deeply in love with Countess Ellen Olenska, and the two agree to meet at the Met, specifically the antiquities gallery.
5. Coney Island
Coney Island, one of NYC’s most loved beaches, makes its appearance in Colm Tóibín’s hauntingly beautiful and heartbreaking novel Brooklyn. The novel is set in both Brooklyn and Ireland in the early 1950s.
After protagonist Eilis Lacey moves to Brooklyn from Ireland, she finds work in a department store on Fulton Street–and then finds love. Tony, a blonde Italian-American man from a big family, takes Eilis to Coney Island and Ebbets Field before then taking her home to dinner in the apartment he shares with his family.
6. Washington Square Park
In Henry James’ novel Washington Square, James reminisces about the New York he had known thirty years prior. Catherine Sloper, the heroine of the novel, falls in love with a handsome young man despite the objections of her emotionally abusive father.
Fun fact: according to the New York Historical Society, when the novel was written in 1880 Washington Square Park did not yet have its iconic memorial arch–it was built nine years later in 1889 to commemorate the centennial of George Washington’s inauguration as the first President of the United States.
A story about a young woman’s efforts to avoid the world by embarking on an extended hibernation, Ottessa Moshfegh’s My Year of Rest and Relaxation brings the Upper East Side to life.
The unnamed narrator, a recent Columbia graduate, works at a hip art gallery and lives in an apartment on the Upper East Side paid for by her inheritance. Throughout the book she wanders around the Upper East Side and NYC as a whole, often alongside her best (and only) friend Reva.