George Plimpton, illustrious patrician multi-hyphenate and longtime editor of The Paris Review, helped establish the genre of “Participatory Journalism.” In terms he almost certainly would have disapproved of, that means “doing stuff just to write about it.” Plimpton stepped into the ring with a professional boxer, played triangle for the New York Philharmonic, swung from a circus trapeze, and far more, resulting in essays that shaped the landscape of nonfiction for decades to come. In keeping with this legacy, we’ve invited contributors from our Spring 2019 issue to live the experiences they depicted in their fiction. In J. Jezewska Stevens’s story “Honeymoon,” the narrator works behind a jewelry counter. “In my line of work you get a sense for the truth,” she writes. “The jewelry nook is a confessional, a place of transience and vulnerability, where what you’re vulnerable to is yourself.” For this assignment, Stevens headed to New York’s Diamond District to explore those long-standing confessionals.
There’s a self-contained atmosphere, a throwback sense of endurance, on West Forty-Seventh Street. It’s an attitude that fewer and fewer Midtown streets can claim; most of Manhattan seems to be converging on the sterile luxury of Hudson Yards. But on this modest one-block stretch, bookended by Fifth and Sixth, there are no experience spaces, whitewashed cafés, or glassy high-rises that double as malls. The storefronts are cramped, indifferent, tinged with elbow grease. The famous arcades, where narrow aisles maximize the number of jeweler’s booths, are brassy but austere—at least in comparison to the corporate mansions of Tiffany’s and Cartier. On Forty-Seventh, the whole street buzzes with the modest energy of the hustle, which only serves to heighten the intrigue of the diamonds on display.