A reader writes:
Are the people of New York narcissistic? Yes, but the phenomenon of narcissism is not any more widespread here than anywhere else, including the small rural town and suburban sprawl where I grew up. It may be that the narcissism of New Yorkers is particularly recognizable because it so often looks like worldly self-congratulation; but people find all sorts of ways to congratulate themselves, including being dismissive of New York. My father, for instance, takes pride in having been here only once - in Penn Station, which he didn't even leave. "I don't know why you'd want to live in a place like that," he says to me; as if he even knew. And then there is that familiar refrain: "New York is a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to raise a family there." How many of these have ever come to New York with a truly open mind? How many of these have gone beyond Times Square and Fifth Avenue?
If you come to this vast, bewildering city honestly and alone, there is nothing about it that congratulates you. There is nothing in it to even acknowledge you. If the city itself has any direct influence on a person's self-conception, that influence must at first be humbling, not inflating. It is an experience I wish more people could have. If you grew up in the places I did, you can drive from Erie to Detroit and see nothing to challenge your world view or your sense of self; the same cannot be said of the distance between Wall Street and Harlem.
This alone makes me disagree with Conor. I would say that New York does not loom large *enough* in the national consciousness - it is a chimera of New York that looms, not the real experience of the city itself.