I was on a discovery path in New York about a month ago.
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 2-level bookstore is a marvel!
And so the test started.
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)
- They have Kurt Vonnegut, plenty.
- Charles Bukowski is there, too, and not only with Factotum.
This test was a PASS.
TEST #2: American gems
- “A Confederacy of Dunces” (John Kennedy Toole) was on the main aisle!
- Hunter S Thompson’s “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” was not an easy find but was in stock.
- 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
This test was a PASS.
TEST #3: the Europeans
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
- I looked for short prose by Swiss dramaturg Friederich Durenmatt: nothing.
- 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.
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”.