Abstract City

Christoph Niemann. Abrams, $24.95 (256p) ISBN 978-1-4197-0207-5
If OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) were an art form, Niemann would be Michelangelo. He does best concocting a graph to illustrate his fluctuating coffee cravings; a pie-chart to isolate the components of that slippery beast, the Really Great Idea; or even a photomontage designed to underscore the difficulties of combating lint. His undeniable graphic prowess becomes diluted when he focuses on the Berlin Wall over 10 pages, as well-meaning as his intentions may be. “She was the wall’s first official victim,” writes Niemann, about Ida Siekmann. “And here I was, pitying myself because I had slept only a few hours and couldn’t get my DSL connection up and running.” Indeed. There’s nothing really abstract about Abstract City, a compilation retracing Niemann’s often self-aggrandizing New York Times blog, but he does have an uncanny knack for encapsulating those anecdotal-yet-unavoidable moments that constitute the background chatter of a New Yorker’s existence, like shopping at Fairway. He does almost equally well describing the more serious vagaries of metropolitan life, such as the subway system and the weather. Most satisfying is the section Niemann devotes to “unpopular science,” in which his linear art and his fastidious, analytical wit mesh perfectly, distilling some wicked good humor. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 05/14/2012
Release date: 04/01/2012
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