This week I had the opportunity to visit New York City and explore one of its biggest and best bookstores. The Strand, on 12th Street and Broadway, which has been in business for 86 years, boasts 18 miles of books on three floors. Browsing the massive collection of books is a bibliophile’s dream come true. One of the things that impressed me the most is the abundance of what blogger Times Flow recently called “alt-lit”—which to me means literature in translation from around the world, books from small presses, and reissued classics. Not only do they have a plethora of such interesting literature, but these types of books are displayed prominently on easy-to-browse tables on the first floor of The Strand.
I recently acquired a copy of Anne Carson’s translation of Sappho and became intrigued with her writing and translating so I was excited to find two Carson books (well, more like pamphlets) at The Strand. Her poetry collection entitled Float comes in a clear plastic box and contains a series of chapbooks with poems, reflections, lists, and thoughtful observations. They are meant to be read separately or as one continuous, connected work; I would like to set aside enough time to read them all at once.
I also found another chapbook from Anne Carson that she wrote for part of the New Directions poetry pamphlet series. I read The Albertine Workout on the train ride home and found it interesting, clever, humorous and erudite. It’s ironic and thrilling that she penned such a small, thoughtful pamphlet on Proust!
I also came across a rather inexpensive copy of Samuel Beckett’s Echo’s Bones. One aspect of The Strand that is also helpful is their abundance of new books on sale as well as inexpensive used book selection.
I also couldn’t resist this new, pristine copy of Fagle’s translation of the Aeneid to replace my badly worn out copy. The introduction by Bernard Knox is a fantastic piece of writing that makes this translation worth owning just for his essay alone.
It was particularly exciting for me to walk into The Strand and immediately find books from many of my favorite small presses. I browsed through books from Deep Vellum, New Vessel Press, Archipelago Books, Seagull Books and New Directions. I found three books to add to my ever-growing collection from the New York Review of Books: The Selected Poems of Osip Mandelstam, The Other by Thomas Tryon and The Ten Thousand Things by Maria Dermout.
I also found this copy of The Expedition to the Baobab Tree by Wilma Stockenstrom published by Archipelago Books.
Finally, I had the thrill of a lifetime when, as I was browsing this fabulous selection of books, I opened a copy of Recitation by Bae Suah from Deep Vellum which I recently reviewed. Inside the front cover was a blurb from my review of her previous book, A Greater Music, that I wrote for World Literature Today.
I also highly recommend The Strand Kiosk which is located outside of Central Park on E. 60th St. and 5th Ave. It is only opened seasonally and I had the opportunity to browse the Kiosk during my visit last June and also came home with an assortment of great books. And a final thing worth mentioning about The Strand is the third floor of the main shop on Broadway which is full of rare and collectable first edition books. Their selection of rare books is also listed for sale on their website. I am hoping that someday my copy of Bottom’s Dream from Dalkey Archive will be worthy of sitting among the rare books in their collection. Although I doubt that I would ever be able to part with my copy!
I always find New York exciting and exhilarating and The Strand is a unique destination in the city that adds to the thrill of visiting. I could have spent at least a few more hours there, I didn’t even make it to the second floor of books! I am contemplating a day trip next month just to go back and visit this magical, literary place. What are your favorite bookshops from around the world?