A Literary Tour of NYC
Hi everyone...I am doing what I love best - traveling! I will be home today and can't wait to share tales of my travels with all of you. In the meantime, enjoy a post from last year detailing a walking tour of New York City's rich literary history...
(Blogger question - do you ever go back and look at your old posts and see how you have evolved over time? It was fun to see what I was doing a year ago!)
From Washington Irving to the Beat Poets of the 1960's, Manhattan has always been a mecca for aspiring, as well as established, American writers. For my fellow bibliophiles, here is a literary tour of New York which will help satisfy your literary wanderlust:
|Rose Reading Room at NYPL by Alex Proimos via Fotopedia|
Begin your literary tour at the New York Public Library's Main Branch/Stephen Schwarzman Building (Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street). Don't miss the stone Lions in front, nicknamed Patience and Fortitude during the Depression by Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia. One of the best ways to get a good feel for this NYC landmark is to take one of the hour long walking tours led by docents at the library. The impressive Rose Main Reading Room is where writers, including Nobel laureates, have sat at the long tables to perfect their craft since the library was built in 1911. With it's majestic windows and chandeliers, one can easily imagine E.B. White sitting here writing his poem A Library Lion Speaks. Admire the murals depicting the history of the written word in the McGraw Rotunda and check out the Card Catalog Room, where there were once 9,000 drawers containing 10 millions cards. The Map Room is lined with vintage maps and globes and the DeWitt Wallace Periodical Room has fourteen paintings by Richard Haas depicting the New York publishing houses. Finally, no visit would be complete without stopping into the Children's Center downstairs to see the original Winnie the Pooh stuffed bear that author A.A Milne gave to his son, Christopher, in 1921.
Upon leaving the Main Branch, walk along Library Way a stretch of 41st street where every few feet there are quotations from a prominent works of literature, illustrated in beautiful bronze placques by sculptural artist, Gregg LeFevre.
|Photo from The Morgan Library and Museum|
Walk east to The Morgan Library and Museum (Madison Avenue and 36th Street). The Library and Museum was recently reopened after an extensive restoration and an extension by renowned architect, Renzo Piano. The former private library of J.P. Morgan, The Morgan Library includes his collections of manuscripts and printed books, some in rare bindings, as well as his collection of prints and drawings. Among the highlights are three Gutenberg Bibles, an important collection of works by writers such as Lord Byron, Charles Dickens, Edgar Allan Poe, Mark Twain and Herman Melville, and several classic early children's books. In 1998, a major gift to the library added The Carter Burden Collection of American Literature, adding to their collection works by authors such as Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath, Vladimir Nabokov, Gertrude Stein, and Tennessee Williams. Don't miss the spectacular multi-tiered East Room Library pictured above.
Head up Madison Avenue to The Grolier Club (47 East 60th Street). A hidden gem, it is America's oldest and largest society for bibliophiles and contains a collection of over 100,000 books about books. As it is a private club, most people don't realize that The Grolier Club is open to the public by appointment. They also regularly hold special exhibits and lectures which are open to the public.
A few blocks away is Argosy, Old and Rare Books, Prints and Maps (116 East 59th Street). In business for three generations since 1926, Argosy specializes in antiquarian and out of print books.
Dine at the Algonquin Hotel's Round Table (59 West 44th Street) where a group of young writers and critics gathered daily to critique the literary and cultural events of their time. They wielded tremendous influence over the post World War I literary scene, including Ernest Hemingway and F.Scott Fitzgerald, and, while they were at it, founded The New Yorker magazine.
If you want to stay in the center of the literary action in Midtown, book a room at the Library Hotel where the rooms are organized by the Dewey Decimal system and there are over 6,000 books for guests to enjoy.
In Greenwich Village and Chelsea, one can literally walk in the footsteps of New York's writers and poets, visiting some of their haunts and hangouts, while also experiencing some of the city's current literary highlights.
To see a truly hidden treasure, stop into the lobby of New York University's Languages and Literature Building (19 University Place) to see At Home with Their Books by Elena Clement. Thirty feet wide by ten feet high, this remarkable mural contains six panels which depict intimate scenes of the spaces where famous New York City writers composed their well-known novels, poems, or essays.
Over fifty bookshops used to line Fourth Avenue in lower Manhattan when it was known as Book Row. Today, they are all gone, along with the many other independent bookstores around Manhattan. However, Strand Bookstore (Broadway and 12th Street) still remains. Opened in 1927 and still owned by the founding family, Strand advertises "18 miles of books" on several levels.
At The White Horse Tavern (567 Hudson Street), you can have a drink where Dylan Thomas literally drank himself to death (after 18 shots of whiskey, he later collapsed and died) and Jack Kerouac, Hunter S. Thompson and Bob Dylan all held court.
|Photo of Hotel Chelsea by Jason Kuffer via Fotopedia|
Although currently closed for renovations, no literary tour would be complete without a stop at the infamous Hotel Chelsea (222 West 23rd Street), home of countless writers as well as musicians, artists and actors. This is where Dylan Thomas died after his drinking at the White Horse. It has been home to Mark Twain, O Henry, Arthur C. Clarke, Arthur Miller, Gore Vidal, Tennessee Williams, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac (who wrote On The Road while living there), Thomas Wolfe, Simone de Beauvoir, Jean Paul Sartre and many other great writers. Rocker and writer Patti Smith memorialized here time living at The Chelsea with artist Robert Mapplethorpe in her recent memoir Just Kids.