I was on a discovery path in New York about a month ago, on my own.
I love finding the heart of a new city in its book stores, as much as I like returning to my childhood bookstore every time I visit my hometown of Baia Mare, in Northern Transylvania.
Therefore I was happy when my smartphone buzzed, announcing a new tweet message – it was from New-York based, Toronto writer Cate Kustanczy. She said that while I walk Broadway Southbound I should not miss Strand Books. Said and done!
The bookstore is a marvel!
It lays on 2 levels, and the aisles are as tall as Gulliver.
You are completely sheltered between walls of books, but walking up the stairs one gets a beautiful penthouse view, too!
And so it started.
Out of the frying pan (the Broadway buzz around Union Square) and into the fire (the thirst of the soul for good books).
TEST #1: American mainstream
After smoothly melting into the mood, I applied my easiest test in the book to Strand: my American faves.
- Yes, they have John Irving (which went also well with my Canadian heart, as Mr. Irving owns a house in Toronto) (buy John Irving on Amazon Canada).
- They have Kurt Vonnegut, plenty. Buy Kurt Vonnegut on Amazon Canada
- Charles Bukowski is there, too, and not only with Factotum. Charles Bukowski on Amazon Canada
This test was a PASS.
TEST #2: American gems
- Hunter S Thompson’s “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” was not an easy find but was in stock. HST on Amazon Canada
- A friendly employee was hanging on a stepladder in the “P” aisle just as I was looking for Richard Perez – The Loser’s Club, the ‘New-York Bible’ I read in a couple of nights a few years ago. All she had to do is pick it as an apple in a July tree.Richard Perez on Amazon Canada
This test was a PASS.
TEST #3: the essentials
This might have been a tough test for such a popular place, but I had to run it anyway.
- There was no book by Romanian genius, Chicago University god MIRCEA ELIADE. He was largely translated in English, so not finding a mainstream Eliade was a draw back.Mircea Eliade on Amazon Canada
- I was in the mood for some philosophy of the absurd, so I looked for the short prose by Swiss dramaturg Friederich Durenmatt: nothing.Durenmatt on Amazon Canada
- Finally I wanted to see if the beautiful novels by contemporary French writer Michel Tournier are there. Such as “Friday and the limbs of Pacific”, a book I read every summer. Nothing.Tournier on Amazon Canada
This test was a FAIL.
I left the store filled with joy and definitely enriched by a New York space I would like to revisit for a closer look.
As I told Cate, while handing her “The Loser’s Club” as a gift, “I felt I could spend a day at STRANDS”.