New Yorker writer Ian Frazier has a mild fixation with plastic carrier bags. Over the years, he has become transfixed by the sight of them billowing, tattered and water-logged, in the bare branches of New York’s sidewalk trees, along with several hundred tangled metres of cassette tape. Understandably, he loathes the ugliness of this spectacle and, with a friend, invented a device, a sort of hooked pole, with which to unsnag stuff from trees. Their success (they even patented the pole) led to a brief flirtation with a similarly cunning invention with which to bring helium balloons down to earth. They were inspired by the irritating sight of one of those silver heart-shaped birthday balloons apparently stuck forever to the ceiling of Grand Central Station, dancing across its mural of the constellations.
In this collection of his writings from the last twelve years or so, Frazier displays a keen eye for the odd details which make up the experience of life in a city: the bag in the tree; the balloon on the station ceiling; the chance juxtaposition of one object with