We visited McNally Jackson Books down on the Lower East Side after a trip to The Tenement Museum which is a must see if you ever visit New York. And a lunch at Katz’s Deli. I mustn’t forget that. Katz’s Deli is also a must see. or a must eat. (Try the corned beef.) Fortunately you can see all three of these wonderful spots and the fantastic Economy Candy in a single afternoon visit.
McNally Jackson arranges their fiction geographically which some people don’t like, but I appreciate. It makes for a nice change in book browsing. Normally, if you’re looking for literature from a particular region you have to know what you’re looking for. At McNally Jackson I can go look in the Korean Literature section and find authors who are new to me. That’s where I found The Girl Who Wrote Loneliness by Kyung-Sook Shin who wrote one of my new favorite books Please Look After Mom. Turns out she has written quite a few novels, five of which are on the shelves at McNally Jackson.
I confess that after I had paid for it I realized I might have broken one of my cardinal book-buying rules: never buy a book with ‘Girl’ in the title unless the word refers to a young woman under the age of 19. I’m over that. She’s a WOMAN with a dragon tatoo. Do you really think if that character had been male the title would have been The Boy with the Dragon Tatoo. No. It would have been The Man with the Dragon Tatoo. Luckily, the girl in question this time is 16. However, I am 100% certain that the American edition has the word girl in the title because it will sell better.
This past Sunday, C.J. and I visited the Park Slope area of Brooklyn which is as nice as you’ve heard, and not nearly as snobby. Much of the time I don’t tell C.J. that I’ve planned our daily trips around bookstores. He’s become used to ceding the touring schedule to me since I do run field trips for a living and really cannot help but move the tour along as soon as things get a bit quiet. So after visiting the flea market we walked down the street and “came upon” Community Bookstore.
“What’s this,” I said. “A bookstore.”
“Did you want to go in?”
“Since we’re here, we may as well.”
Community Bookstore is a terrific little place for literature. They do have genre fiction and non-fiction, but it’s really a place to go for more standard stories. They have shelves devoted to Melville House, to NYRB Books and to Europa Edition all of which I collect. So the perfect place for me to pick up a book that was none of those– The Reef by Juan Villoro from Mexico.
But the big book-related discovery of our trip so far has been The Sketchbook Project at the Brooklyn Art Library in the Williamsburg neighborhood. They have over 36,000 sketchbooks submitted by artists and regular folk from all over the world. There you can check out as many sketchbooks as you like to peruse at your leisure. You cannot take them home so plan on staying a while. We were there about an hour which was not nearly enough time for me.
The sketchbooks I read through were wonderful. One about mysterious maps, one about a crow flying all over town, one a series of strange portraits and one featuring items and pictures of items found on the street in the artist’s neighborhood. Both C.J. and I bought blank sketchbooks so we can submit our own work. There’s no deadline so we can take our time coming up with a good theme and making our books.
The Brooklyn Art Library is a bit out-of-the-way, but well worth a visit. You can also check out the City Reliquary Museum a community labor of love that features collections of New York related memorabilia as good as any roadside attraction you’ll find in the countryside. It’s actually much better that the Museum of the City of New York which we found both boring and irritating.
There’s only one more required bookstore left to visit, The Mysterious Bookshop which we’ll probably stumble upon after our trip to Ellis Island later this week. This brings my total for the trip so far to a mere nine books.
- Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
- A Book of Common Prayer by Joan Didion
- Nazis in the Metro by Didier Daeninckx
- Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell
- The Expendable Man by Dorothy Hughes
- The Girl Who Wrote Loneliness by Kyung-Sook Shin
- The Dead Mountaineer’s Inn by Boris and Arkady Strugatsky
- Memoirs of a Polar Bear by Yoko Tawada
- The Reef by Jaun Villoro
I think I can get these into my carry on.