Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Quality of Life Report

In the past couple of years, I have read several novels about moving to New York or living in New York. Now, one about leaving New York. The Quality of Life Report looks at first like a trifle. I bought it in Michigan with the thought of reading on my grandma's pool deck, or on the bus ride home. My first observation was that it was a well-written trifle.

"When my friends and I were not discussing the lack of available men, we were usually discussing moving out of New York," Meghan Daum, the author, writes. "When somebody came home from an unusual location -- a wedding in Nova Scotia or a snorkeling trip in Australia -- and spent two weeks obsessing about moving into a yurt on the Bay of Fundy, we called it an Alternative Lifestyle Alert. The guiding principle of the Alternative Lifestyle Alert was that it was never acted on. Until now." Alternative Lifestyle Alert! That sounds like something my friends back in Buffalo would have said!, I thought, and kept on with what I still thought was a beach read.

For us professional-type people who did not grow up in or near New York City, the choice is roughly something like this: on the one hand, The Outside offers affordable housing, the proximity of friends and family, comfort and convenience. On the other hand, New York offers the opportunity to do and accomplish things you otherwise could not, the idea that even in this day and age, you can just sell your things, pack up what's left, and go really make something of yourself. The question is not only where do you want to live, but who do you want to be.

Lucinda, the main character in The Quality of Life Report, describes it as a conflict between substance and style. Leaving New York, she decides, will make her become a person of substance. Slowly she realizes that when you leave your stupid, fake problems (childish men, bad fashion, too-small apartments) behind, what you find out in the real world are real problems.

If I say more, I'll give too much away. Friends who have been torn between the big city, the small city and home sweet home, please read this. And then discuss it with me.

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