One can't help thinking of the last significant scene of Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caufield watching his sister Phoebe on the very same carousel. Though the ride is, in a way, soothing and revelatory to Holden—he, finally accepting of the inevitability of adulthood—to Robert it is frightening and violent, a view of what his father, and what he in the future, must face: a stark, indifferent reality, a world undisguised and exposed.
Patrick sums up the New York experience with a contrite hint of discouragement toward the country in general, the city now only a microcosm: "I had such a love affair with America, I suppose I feel jilted by its current incarnation. Of course," he continues, "it's a vast and complex society, and I have great faith in its powers of self correction. But where are they? What happened to rioting? Satire? Skepticism?"
Like an old flame, America for him has dimmed, and, though he seems to recognize just what is wrong, he is powerless to help. But in the context of the novel, Patrick Melrose has many personal problems, not the least of which is his unflagging alcoholism. New York City becomes for Patrick just another disappointment.
In Norwood, Charles Portis's side splitting debut of 1966, the main character, Norwood Pratt of Ralph, Texas ("...just the other side of Texarkana.") heads back east to collect a debt. Well, there is a little more to it than that, but relative to the New York motif, he winds up across the Hudson in Manhattan's Bowery section. He quickly learns that the fellow ex-Marine Joe William Reese, from whom he was attempting to collect his $70, has already abandoned the big city.
After spending a few days at Joe Williams' roommate's (Dave Heineman, a self described "New York Jew") apartment and dating a girl from upstairs—Marie, a speech major from Northwestern, who reads to him from "something called The Prophet," who "didn't work anywhere," "didn't seem to have any friends," and with whom "nothing ever got off the ground in the way of funny business" —Norwood decides to move on. Before leaving, he visits the Automat on Union Square for a plate of franks and beans:
"The place was packed with damp bums who smelled like rancid towels and he had to wait for a seat. One fell vacant and he darted in and got it. Then he saw that he had forgotten his silverware. He left the dish of beans on top of an Argosy magazine to stake a table claim and went back to the cutlery stand. While he was gone the girl with the dirty dishes wagon picked up his beans and an Oriental gentleman across the table got the magazine. A man with a bowl of oatmeal got the seat."