It started at the New York Public Library

Literary Tourist in New York

We decided to park the car at the hotel, stay overnight in Poughkeepsie N.Y., and take the one hour train ride into Manhattan the next morning; not however, before visiting the Bocuse Restaurant at the American Culinary Institute that evening. It’s recognized as ‘the world’s premier culinary college’, and is beautifully situated in what was once the St. Andrew-on-Hudson Jesuit novitiate in nearby Hyde Park. Though nothing about our meal really stood out, the food was uniformly good, the price was reasonable and the setting, as I say, was very impressive. Well worth a look at the $45 fixed menu.

Next morning the train took a bit of a milk route; it wasn’t full, so we gathered deep breaths, stretched out, and enjoyed the Hudson Valley scenery. The train went right to Grand Central station. This

reminded me a bit of the famed Platform 9 3/4 at King’s Cross Station in London, although here you don’t have to run into a wall to catch the right train.

First stop on the big apple literary itinerary was the New York Public Library at 42nd St and Fifth Avenue.

It’s pretty well impossible to tell Patience

from Fortitude. These are the names Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia gave the library lions back in the 1930s. They were the qualities he felt New Yorkers needed in order to survive the Great Depression.

Inside I was greeted by this punchy quote

perfect slogan for the book podcast I host called The Biblio File.

One of the things I love about the bookstore at the NYPL is that it sells ex-library and donated books, cheap.

NYPL Bookstore, ex library

If that’s not your thing, there are plenty of other fun, bookish accessories to go round. For example, you might want to adopt this Justin Trudeau ‘library look’

Down the hall there’s always something interesting going on in the special exhibition space. Today it was a sixties revolution exhibit

filled with powerful images of protest and complaint (Napalm was manufactured in the U.S. by the Dupont Chemical Company – 388,000 tons of the disgusting stuff was dropped on Vietnam between 1963 -1973).  In 1964 millions of middle-class young white kids started rejecting their parents’ infatuation with money and status. They created what would be called the Counterculture, and became ‘flower children’ looking for “meaning in Eastern spirituality, communal living, and free love”. Struggling against the system, they believed, would bring on a ‘New Age’ of peace and love.

This is the main – Stephen A. Schwarzman Building – branch of the NYPL

(Schwarzman is an etched in stone billionaire friend of Donald Trump’s, but let’s not hold that against him), here you’ll also find a Rare Books room, the Berg Collection of English and American Literature, and a Children’s Center, home to the original stuffed bear Winnie-the-Pooh and his four closest friends: Eeyore, Piglet, Kanga, and Tigger; plus, LIVE from the NYPL a regular conversation session with ‘notable writers, artists, and leaders’, hosted by Paul Holdengräber.

On a nice day it’s worth venturing around to the back of the building. It opens up onto a lovely square, called Bryant Park. Here you’ll find a large patio where you can read your new/ex book acquisitions and enjoy a refreshing squeezed orange juice, or something.

To be continued.

Book, cat and dog lovers’ paradise in Tokyo

Literary Tourist in Tokyo:

Did you know that Tokyo has it’s own Times Square? It’s called Shibuya Crossing, near the Metro station of the same name, and it’s chock full of huge video screens, bright lights, brand-name stores,

and hordes of orderly people crossing a broad, orderly intersection (hard to tell that this is one of the busiest in the world). There are also lottery tickets if that’s your thing,

and a resident faithful dog beside which thousands get their photos taken every day.

At the end of each day, so the story goes, Hachiko would wait for his master at the train station to greet him after work. One day, in 1925, the master failed to show up. He’d died of a heart attack. Nobody told Hachiko, who continued to go to the station every evening for nine straight years until he himself finally died.

Away from Hachiko, the noisy tourists, and the blaring billboards, along a small car-lined side-street, the book-lover will find tranquility. Book Off is a popular Continue reading “Book, cat and dog lovers’ paradise in Tokyo”

The next time you happen to be in Asia…

The next time you happen to be in Asia you won’t want to miss the Zhongshuge Bookstores in China. Some have called them the most beautiful in the world.

Owner/publisher Jin Hao quit his teaching job more than 20 years ago to open his first bricks-and-mortar bookshop. Today there are four. Designed by Shanghai-based architect Li Xiang of X+Living the stores are at once coldly futuristic and warmly inviting. The location I visited, on 1601 Nanjing W Road, JingAnSi, Jingan Qu, in Shanghai’s Reel shopping centre, is furnished with mirrored ceilings which give the impression of more space and more books.

 

While there aren’t as many curves here as in some of his other stores, many of the shelves at least are rounded at the row ends. I saw some interesting authors translated into Chinese, included Duchamp and Walter Benjamin. Unfortunately I’m not familiar with many Chinese authors, so I really have little idea of the breadth of subject matter covered by the selection.  One thing I can say however, is that although there are a ton of titles (including Bob Dylan’s Lyrics! ) you wont find Animal Farm or 1984 among them. They cut too close to the bone, so the Chinese government has banned them.

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Moving along to Seoul, it’s worth visiting the huge Kyobo Bookstore at 1, Jong-ro, Jongno-gu located under a tall office building. We were here during lunch hour. Every seat was taken up by a serious looking

Korean reader…

although I did see a few asleep.

I saw a sign outside the store that spoke of a book design festival…turns out this was an ad for a sale they were having on books about design. The store has a decent foreign/English language section. At the time of my visit there were tables featuring Ishiguro and Julian Barnes.

Apparently the surrounding neighbourhood is famous for its “delicious food”. We walked through a passageway lined with small vendors. Had a pretty good dish of clam-infested noodles for $6 and later an icecream cone for a mere $2.

The Chungjin-dong haejang-guk (broth to relieve hangover) street and the Mukyo-dong octopus restaurants nearby are also famous. The Kyobo bookstore in an easy walk away from Buchon Village, the old town of Seoul, where you’ll see a lot of young ladies getting their photographs taken in traditional dress, like this

Apparently you can rent them for about $10. I demurred.

Hay-on-Wye, where the Photographing is Easy

Over here in North America you can drive for days without seeing a bookstore, let alone mind-blowingly quaint ones, like these

Every time you turn a corner in Hay-on-Wye, the book-town on the Welsh/English border, another one pops

into sight.

Christ, even the ground here

is photogenic. And check out this green grocer:

If you fancy visiting Hay and attending the Festival here’s the tourism information you need.