Get Lost in the Stacks: The coolest places in New York City to find your next read

The STRAND BOOKSTORE. cOURTESY  OF cRAZY RED PEN BLOG 

The STRAND BOOKSTORE. cOURTESY  OF cRAZY RED PEN BLOG 

1. Strand Bookstore - 828 Broadway
Strand Bookstore boasts that their shelves would stretch a whopping 18 miles if all lined up, and when you actually step inside, this isn’t difficult to picture–the carts of used one dollar books that greet you on your way in are almost too much to handle. The largest of the bookstores on this list, it can be slightly overwhelming. Still, with three floors and a basement lined in shelves of books, everyone can find something they are interested in when visiting the Strand.  If you find yourself a compelled fiction reader, the “Banned Books” or “Future of Fiction” displays on the first floor might be a good place to start. If science is your preferred area, the basement has a wide selection of books on chemistry, medicine, physics, and nearly any other scientific topic you could find an interest in.  Bargain hunters will be pleased to know that the basement also houses half-priced books, both new and old.

If you are a collector, or if you just want a quieter atmosphere, the third floor houses the rare and out-of-print books. Its shelves overflow with fine binding and original editions. The third floor also makes for a perfect place to escape from the crowded aisles between shelves and take a breath of the comforting, musty scent of old books. Besides all these volumes, the Strand also sells tons of book related–and non-book related–merchandise, from postcards to mugs and socks. The store also hosts book signing and release events at its flagship store in Union Square. The Strand can be hectic, but so many gems are hidden within its shelves. Make sure to give yourself some time to, as their tote bags say, “get lost in the stacks”.

2. Housing Works Bookstore and Cafe - 126 Crosby St.
Located in SoHo, Housing Works Bookstore and Cafe creates a relaxing environment for those wishing to escape from hectic city life.  The store is a part of New York City’s Housing Works, a non-profit organization which aims to fight AIDS and homelessness.  Nearly all of the staff members are volunteers, and 100% of the proceeds go to the Housing Works charity.  If you are looking for a wide array of books for a reasonable price, Housing Works is the place to be.  The store presents books of all different subject matters, and all of the store’s merchandise is donated. This makes the prices of the used books quite low and gives customers the opportunity to go on a major book haul without dipping too much into their wallets.

The name itself denotes that Housing Works is not only a bookstore, but a cafe, as well.  The cafe serves hot drinks like tea and coffee along with sandwiches, salads and various pastries.  The homey, yet refined environment provides ample space for guests to sit and leaf through the books they have just purchased, or to catch up on work.  

3. McNally Jackson Books - 52 Prince St.
If you can imagine Barnes and Noble going to college, breaking free from the boundaries of conformity, and somehow acquiring a printing press in the process, you would be envisioning McNally Jackson Books. The two-floor independent bookstore has something for every taste; its topics range in everything from poetry to parenting.  You can also find books on business, architecture, cooking, and (of course) literature.  If fiction literature peaks your interest, McNally Jackson has a wide selection, all organized by country, putting a different spin on the typical organization system.  McNally Jackson also houses a cozy cafe where you can sit down and read–or maybe even write–the latest craze, all while enjoying coffee and a scone.  

The store doesn’t only sell books, but it prints them as well.  The “Espresso Book Machine,” so-named because it quickly prints books for its customers, lies within McNally Jackson’s walls.  The machine prints from a network of over 7-million titles, which include public domain, blacklist and out-of-print titles.  Customers can also request personalized editions of select literary classics.  If you are a writer looking to take your piece to the next step, the Espresso Book Machine even prints self-published works.  Whether you are a reader or a writer, McNally Jackson poses the perfect place to sit back and indulge in your work.

4. Rizzoli Bookstore - 1133 Broadway
This bookstore’s backstory is tragic. In 1985, Rizzoli Bookstore moved into the elegant six-story townhouse, complete with a balcony and beautiful chandeliers, that would be its home for 25 years.  In 2014, however, the classical 57th Street location was torn down, much to the dismay of frequent customers.  Now located in Manhattan’s NoMad neighborhood near Madison Square Park, Rizzoli Bookstore maintains the sophisticated ambiance it was known for. The most striking element about the store is its polished design, featuring marble floors, chandeliers, and masterfully painted wall murals.  

Dark wooden bookshelves stretch from floor to ceiling, giving book-lovers myriad choices for their next read.  Rizzoli’s selection is specialized in visual subjects such as fashion, interior design, architecture, photography, and art. Even so, their collection does not neglect other areas of interest.  Customers can also find books on music and film, and view the store’s selection of European magazines and newspapers.  All the books are new, so you won’t be finding any used-book deals, but the quiet and classy atmosphere is enough reason make a visit.  


Olivia Diulus '20

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SLC Phoenix

The Phoenix is a non-profit, student-run publication representing the voices and opinions of Sarah Lawrence College community members. Our print edition publishes bi-weekly on Tuesdays, and our online edition is updated multiple times per week. Anyone may attend our open meetings at 9:00 PM on Wednesday nights in the North Room of the Pub.

Girl Talk: Booze, Boys, and Platonic Bed Sharing

Lena Dunham poses with her autobiography "Not That Kind of Girl"  via Huffington Post

Lena Dunham poses with her autobiography "Not That Kind of Girl" 

via Huffington Post

Honesty is a virtue we all desire but are rarely able to practice. Lena Dunham however is the exception, for in her new book, Not That Kind of Girl, she reveals to her audience the raw awkwardness that is her life. From uncomfortable sexual encounters to unlikely bonds of friendship, Dunham recounts all the embarrassing incidents that have occurred throughout her painfully unfortunate (and equally hilarious) life history.

In her first chapter entitled “Take My Virginity (No Really Take It),” Dunham gives us first hand accounts of college experiences everyone has had. She even delves into the ones we have all deemed too embarrassing to even mention. In a hilarious description of a cheese and beer party gone awry, Dunham recalls how a friends tearful meltdown caused her to miss out on finally losing her V-card. To add insult to injury, the reason for the meltdown was because said friend was threatened by her roommate after leaving a note that asked her to stop having high pitched banchi sex.

In another account Lena tells of how a houseplant single handedly managed to save her from becoming an ad for planned parenthood. Despite being thankful to the drunken frat boy who finally stole her virtue, Dunham admitted she was more grateful to the mini palm tree whose low hanging foliage managed to expose the condom that had fallen off mid coitus.

When Dunham discusses love and friendship, she gives reference to two of the strangest yet impactful relationships of her life. The first was with her online Russian pen-pal-turned-boyfriend. His untimely death was met with little-to-no sympathy from Dunham’s friends and family whose own . So not only had she  On top of being made out to be so desperate that she invented a fake dead boyfriend, Dunham was also the subject of persecution when it came to her favorite male friend bonding activity. Apparently many of Dunham’s friends and family thought it strange for a girl to cuddle with her guy friends for whom she shared no romantic feelings; for Dunham it was just a typical Wednesday afternoon activity.

So whether it was being rescued by a common houseplant or defending her right to snuggle, Dunham proves that both in love and life that she is no ordinary girl.

by Graeme Belzer '18
gbelzer@gm.slc.edu 


 

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SLC Phoenix

The Phoenix is a non-profit, student-run publication representing the voices and opinions of Sarah Lawrence College community members. Our print edition publishes bi-weekly on Tuesdays, and our online edition is updated multiple times per week. Anyone may attend our open meetings at 9:00 PM on Wednesday nights in the North Room of the Pub.

From frontman to author: Frenette reviews 'Wolf in White Van' by The Mountain Goats' lead singer

photo by Lily Frenette

photo by Lily Frenette

Does the name of this author sound familiar? Probably not. He published one novel prior to his latest release, Black Sabbath: Master of Reality, in 2008, but otherwise gained no literary notoriety. His name usually becomes familiar when it is mentioned in conjunction with his band, The Mountain Goats. Yes, he is that guy – the lead singer and songwriter – who has been called one of the best lyricists of his generation. Even though Wolf in White Van was just published last month, it has already received a lot of attention and was nominated as a long-list finalist for the National Book Award in Fiction.

Wolf in White Van, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, tells the story of Sean Phillips, the creator of a completely text based, role-playing game called “The Trace Italian.” When he is sued by the parents of one of the players for causing the death of their daughter, Sean begins to reflect on what has led up to this point of his life, namely an incident that disfigured him. All readers are told is that it involved a gun; the rest of the story creates the mystery of the novel.

In the aftermath of the incident, Sean’s imagination flourishes, creating the game that becomes his life. The Trace Italian is a stronghold built in Kansas to protect the few remaining humans on Earth from the radioactive wasteland America has become. Sean receives letters from players explaining how they want to play the game, which he narrows down to a single choice and then mails the consequences of the choice back to them. “The Trace Italian” is Sean’s escape from thinking about his injury, but it is impossible to completely forget something that changes one’s life completely.

Each page is a new piece of the puzzle - explaining Sean’s family, his childhood, the trial, his life in isolation, his interactions with the players, and finally attempting to explain why exactly the incident occurred. As each piece is revealed, readers get closer to the truth of what happened.

Copies of Wolf in White Van can be found on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, and Powell’s Books. There is also a copy in the library, which will be returned shortly to the shelves and then available for everyone’s reading pleasure. To sum it all up: the story creates a windy path, is told non-linearly, can be a bit confusing, but is completely worth it. Within Darnielle’s prose, readers will be able to hear the lyricism and storytelling that makes his songs so successful. Sean’s story grows with each chapter, until readers feel as if they are the players searching for the Trace, but instead of a fortress, The Trace Italian is the secret of Sean’s life.

by Lily Frenette '18
lfrenette@gm.slc.edu

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SLC Phoenix

The Phoenix is a non-profit, student-run publication representing the voices and opinions of Sarah Lawrence College community members. Our print edition publishes bi-weekly on Tuesdays, and our online edition is updated multiple times per week. Anyone may attend our open meetings at 9:00 PM on Wednesday nights in the North Room of the Pub.

Frenette reviews alumni Neely-Cohen's debut novel "Echo of the Boom"

Alumni/Author Maxwell Neely-Cohen '08. Photo courtesy Kathryn Greenbaum.

Alumni/Author Maxwell Neely-Cohen '08. Photo courtesy Kathryn Greenbaum.

When reading for fun, readers look for one of two things: the familiar or the novel. Each appeals in a different way. One reminds readers of their own life, so they can slip into the character’s shoes and imagine they are the one going on those  adventures. The other kind of story amazes readers, but they are left unable to relate to the character’s adventures. Maxwell Neely-Cohen crafts a story which imbues the unknown in the novel with a sense of familiarity, leaving readers with a sense that their lives could mirror that of the characters. He was also kind enough to answer some questions for The Phoenix about his new book.

"Echo of the Boom," Neely-Cohen’s first novel, follows four characters as they grow and interact in a high school setting during the War on Terror. While the story is extremely fascinating, it can be a bit confusing to keep track of the story with four leads. Even Neely-Cohen admits that writing the story was, “incredibly difficult,” and that he figured out the storylines, “just through brute force.”

Here is what you need to know to keep track of who is who: Steven knows more about bombs than any kid his age should, thanks to his attention to detail and ex-spy father. Efram is unable to connect with his surroundings in the aftermath of a family scandal. Chloe plays the role of the mean girl. She is a bit sadistic and hurts her friends just for the fun of it. Molly loses her mother in a tragic car accident and is thrust into a life of isolation with survivalists as her only companions. Though these lives seem unrelated, the connections between the characters keep readers engaged throughout the novel.

The inspiration for "Echo of the Boom" can be traced back to Neely-Cohen’s time at Sarah Lawrence: “Geopolitics, warfare, technology, music- these were things I was obsessed with while in college. It was also the younger siblings of some of my classmates who inspired me to write about contemporary teenagers in the first place.” He says nothing is based directly off of his SLC experience, but that he would, “really like to write something that somehow involves [it].”

There is no one overarching theme to the novel and that is part of what makes it appealing to so many people. “Some [people] really focus on what the book says about violence, the religiosity of nuclear weapons, the experience of growing up only knowing The War On Terror,” said Neely-Cohen. “Others really like how it approaches youth culture and technology and high school mayhem, and ignore the other stuff,” .

When asked which professors most impacted his writing, Neely-Cohen had a hard time pinning down just one. “Ernesto Mestre-Reed and Stefanie Sobelle” (both of whom no longer teach at Sarah Lawrence), “were massively influential on how I learned to tell stories. Philip Swoboda and Fredric Smoler gave me an amazing view of history. And my don, theoretical physicist turned Associate Dean of the College, Kanwal Singh, taught me a great deal about language and systems of thought.”

He also acknowledges another, unexpected, influence. “I was also very lucky to have freakishly talented classmates who taught me just as much as my professors.” But, with this being SLC, that is not too surprising. Everyone who goes here has a story to tell. It is almost more surprising if one learns nothing from one’s peers.

Despite how calm Neely-Cohen seems about his first novel, published by Rare Bird Books, he does confess to some new author jitters. “Mostly I'm just happy that anyone is reading it at all.”

Maxwell Neely-Cohen will be speaking on Oct 10, at the Housing Works Bookstore Café in NYC, as part of “Vol. 1 Brooklyn Presents The Greatest 3-Minute Suburban Stories.” Copies of "Echo of the Boom" can be found at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, or Indiebound. The library doesn’t own a copy, but one can be requested through Interlibrary Loan. Pick it up and experience this intriguing story.

by Lily Frenette '18
lfrenette@gm.slc.edu

 

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SLC Phoenix

The Phoenix is a non-profit, student-run publication representing the voices and opinions of Sarah Lawrence College community members. Our print edition publishes bi-weekly on Tuesdays, and our online edition is updated multiple times per week. Anyone may attend our open meetings at 9:00 PM on Wednesday nights in the North Room of the Pub.

SLC's own 'whodunnit' caper plays literary leap frog

Mary Katherine Michiels-Kibler

Mary Katherine Michiels-Kibler

“Colleges are filled with insecurities–social, sexual, intellectual…and then there are the students,” reads the cover of Naked Came the Post-Postmodernist: a mystery novel written by thirteen Sarah Lawrence students in one of last year’s writing classes taught by professor Melvin Bukiet.

This amusing mystery is set on the fictional campus of Underhill College, a small liberal arts college that feels vaguely familiar. With roommate relationships, overheard dining hall conversations, and campus social life, Naked Came the Post-Postmodernist is a thoroughly relatable read for any college student. Amid these typical college occurrences are mysterious murders, a teacher student affair, and a whole bunch of praying mantises.

The book was written using a type of “literary leap frog,” where one student would write a chapter, everyone would critique it, and then it would be passed off to another student to write the next chapter. A technique that was inspired by the 1969 novel, Naked Came the Stranger and the 1996 novel, Naked Came the Manatee both of which were written in the same technique of round-robin authorship.

After reading these novels, Professor Bukiet thought, “My students can do that” last summer, he sold the book to Arcade Publishing based only on the first three words of the title. Naked came the…

Naked Came the Post-Post Modernist is a one-of-a-kind novel that could not have been accomplished at just any college, “It simply requires a year-long class, so structurally I think even if another school wanted to do it they probably couldn’t. I think it’s a bit of a testament to Sarah Lawrence students, even if another school said, ‘okay were going to have a year long class in order to do this’ they would fall on their face. I like my students,” Bukiet said.

Not just a testament of Sarah Lawrence student’s creativity but also to the guidance of professor Melvin Bukiet, “Melvin guided us in this project the same way he runs every writing workshop: with cutting sarcasm and literary acumen. His job is to ask the right questions and to make fun when we get to serious,” said one of the authors, David Colbert '13. The light-hearted atmosphere of the classroom is evident in the book as you find yourself smiling at the subtle humor of a prospective student tour gone wrong, outlandish student projects, and countless moments of witty dialogue sprinkled throughout.

The authors decided to donate the advance for the book to Sarah Lawrence College as well as a number of copies of the book. Bukiet had hoped for it to be a gift to the school that would show off Sarah Lawrence’s writing program.

The real mystery is why such a feat, one that has been recognized by the New York Times calling it “A whodunit committed by a whole classroom,” is nowhere to be found on our campus. With no copies at the campus bookstore or in the library it doesn’t seem to be an accomplishment the school is eager to show off. It is however available on amazon.com in both hard cover and as an audio book. 

by Mary Katherine Michiels-Kibler
mmichiels@gm.slc.edu

 

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SLC Phoenix

The Phoenix is a non-profit, student-run publication representing the voices and opinions of Sarah Lawrence College community members. Our print edition publishes bi-weekly on Tuesdays, and our online edition is updated multiple times per week. Anyone may attend our open meetings at 9:00 PM on Wednesday nights in the North Room of the Pub.