What’s a New York Book Without a New York Bookstore to Show It Off? – News


In the great city of letters that spawned Herman Melville, James Baldwin, and Nora Ephron, the writing was on the Strand bookstore’s interior southern wall, 20 steps to the right from the entrance That’s the space that for many years was a fitting tribute to the city the store served: the New York section, a 13-foot-by-8-foot nerve center of books as electric, eclectic, and eccentric as the city it honored, from reference books such as Savoring Gotham, a Food Lover’s Companion to New York City, to treasures like David McCullough’s The Great Bridge, Pete Hamill’s Downtown: My Manhattan, and Colson Whitehead’s The Colossus of New York  I was a longtime frequenter of that section, and in 2017 my interest became professional I got a book deal with Abrams Press to write a history of the city and Windows on the World, the restaurant that was at the top of the North Tower of the World Trade Center I swooned at the prospect of my book one day landing in the Strand’s New York section  Being a native New York narcissist, I’d always gravitated to the Gotham sections of stores, but now I was in training I began visiting the Strand the way Brooklyn Cyclones minor leaguers must go to Citi Field, dreaming of the day when they will get called up to the big leagues I went to Barnes & Noble and independents such as Bookbook on Bleecker Street and took notes on the exact way Humans of New York or Vanishing New York were positioned on the shelves  And then, on a cold morning in February of 2018, I returned to the Strand and I was dumbfounded The section of 2,000 or so books had disappeared. In their place? Socks. Socks! The foot apparel was neatly hanging from hundreds of hooks, and expertly curated for a nebbishy-tourist clientele They featured images of Frida Kahlo, Barack Obama, Gumby, and Grumpy Cat. They were lined up artfully in complex hues of gray, green, and blue, under a stenciled sign that heralded, “18 Miles of Books,” a bold act of willful obscurantism  Despite my sincere apoplexy, I was being a tad dramatic. The Strand didn’t do away with its New York section It just pushed it back near the stairs. But as I fret over the launch of my book, which is being published this week by one of the last prestigious non-“big Five” publishers remaining in a city that now hosts fewer than a hundred bookstores—a quarter of what existed in the 1950s—I find myself nervously joining a New York book culture that has been greatly diminished  I should have seen the Strand sock swap coming. My book is very much about how the city both thrives and suffers through change In the past I had actually pulled Whitehead’s book from those very shelves and read his words, “You are a New Yorker when what was there before is more real and solid than what is here now ” I keep reminding myself that it’s not all that bad. There will always be new books about New York And there will be bookstores; in fact, there are some very cool new ones, such as Word and the Center for Fiction, both in Brooklyn These stores may well thrive if they are able to evolve with New Yorkers’ consuming habits, like Brooklyn-based Books Are Magic’s robust Instagram presence or McNally Jackson’s South Street Seaport expansion that will serve beer and wine The Strand—props to them—is clearly doing what it must to succeed. And the store has not lost its soul; recently, in fact, there was a “No Place Like New York,” window display Still, the socks made me realize my late-blooming identity as a New York author is a flickering projection of an anachronistic ideal Advertisement Like many New Yorkers, I’m drawn to the past. That’s why I wanted to write about Windows on the World Its tragic end on 9/11 was a catastrophic example, on the extreme end of the spectrum, of the city enduring change Eighteen years later, the city has moved forward, but not on. And that’s the way it has to be  My previous book, I Lost It at the Video Store, was about the death of the video-store era, when we walked the aisles in physical stores and were able to touch every film genre with our fingertips Its 2015 launch party was at BookCourt, a literary cornerstone in Brooklyn. I spoke at the party about how comforting it was to be in a brick-and-mortar store, which was holding on valiantly despite the overwhelming impact of the internet on all forms of old-world media Fourteen months later, BookCourt sold its last book. The building was converted into high-priced residential rental apartments  Others keep following the same fate; first, my beloved St. Mark’s Bookshop closed its doors forever and then, earlier this year, Bookbook also shuttered Which is why we should honor (and patronize) the survivors, especially a grande old dame that repeatedly gets kicked into the street and refuses to pack it in Is there anything more New York? I speak of the particular pluck of the Rizzoli Bookstore, that vaunted palace of books (immortalized by Woody Allen in 1979’s Manhattan), which opened in 1964 on Fifth Avenue, was forced to move to its glorious 57th street location in 1985 and then was compelled by real estate interests to relocate again in 2015 to its current, Gilded Age home at 1133 Broadway, a beaux arts beauty, with 18-foot high ceilings, near the revitalized Madison Square Park I’d say it’s a magical coincidence that the launch party for my book is being held at Rizzoli, but you and I can’t take a step on the sidewalk of this city without somehow connecting a crack between the New York that once was and the one that is becoming  Rizzoli’s New York section, by the way, happens to be a showpiece of stunning proportions: Vast and bordered by heavy mahogany paneling, it’s the first thing you see when you look in the store window, alive with gorgeous, 10-pound coffee-table tomes and master works by Tina Fey, Jonathan Lethem, Truman Capote, Robert Caro, and, hopefully, a parade of new authors that will extend well beyond this September  — Our cover story: Lupita Nyong’o on Us, Black Panther, and much more— The 2019 Vanity Fair Best-Dressed List is here— The nine-figure bill for Trump’s “very inexpensive” golf habit— Lori Loughlin finally gets a win— The Hamptons chose its presidential candidate Looking for more? Sign up for our daily newsletter and never miss a story

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *