Probably no writer ever finishes a book without wishing he could keep it to himself. For one thing, a book is company, during the writing of it; it’s hard to accept its departure. For another, a book is never free of flaws, its author being human. Poets have long been able to console themselves for the loss and the exposure by revising and republishing. Thus Whitman expanded, aggrandized, and eventually bloated Leaves of Grass; thus Wordsworth enlarged upon and finally diluted The Prelude. Some writers of fiction, too, have indulged themselves. Henry James returned to his early prose to render it more ineffable. Raymond Carver restored some of the fullness that a charismatic editor had cut from his early stories. Read More
Yesterday, Lorin wrote about St. Mark’s Bookshop—“where the staff knows how to spread the word about good writing, face to face, hand to hand”—and the importance of keeping independent booksellers like this one alive.
We meant every word of it, and to prove it, we’re offering a special discount to St. Mark’s patrons. Beginning today, when you buy a copy of our fall issue at St. Mark’s, you’ll receive a coupon good for 25% off a one-year subscription to The Paris Review, starting with our next issue (it’s good for T-shirts, tote bags, and mugs, too).
It’s our way of saying thank you for supporting this beloved East Village institution!
St. Mark’s Bookshop is the one of the last booksellers in the East Village. Since 1979 it has been famous for its collection of fiction, poetry, and criticism. With just 2,700 square feet, it always manages to stock the best new books and literary magazines—things that would get buried in a less selective store. Pace the Bloomberg newswire, you could find most of these things online. But first you’d have to look—and St. Mark’s teaches you what to look for.
The staff don’t just select the stock, they proselytize on its behalf and, in their small way, help hold the neighborhood together. Once a friend of mine went up to the information desk and asked the clerk to restore his faith in the contemporary novel. Another time, another friend asked where to find flowers on a Sunday. Both left satisfied. That’s the kind of store it is.
Now it seems St. Mark’s Bookshop may close—not for lack of customers, but for the same reason that the East Village lost its Ukrainian diners: if you’re selling pierogi or paperbacks, it’s hard to make $20,000 every month in rent. The owners of St. Mark’s have asked the landlord—the Cooper Union—to lower that rent by $5,000. Friends of the bookstore have circulated a petition and have gathered some 40,000 signatures supporting this request.
We at The Paris Review have a stake in St. Mark’s Bookshop: the store sells between 150 and 200 copies of each issue of The Paris Review. That’s more than we sell in most cities. It’s more than we sell off our own Web site. Magazines like The Paris Review need good bookstores, where the staff knows how to spread the word about good writing, face to face, hand to hand. To our way of thinking, New York needs bookstores, too, or it will no longer be New York.
A cultural news roundup.
- Odds on the Nobel?
- Harry Potter takes his show on the road.
- But not his e-book.
- The trouble with Amazon.
- Bad news for independent bookstores.
- And chain bookstores.
- In praise of the Farmers’ Almanac.
- Hans Christian Andersen to be buried, again.
- Volume 12 of Selected Works of Kim Jong-il hits the shelves.
- “That American culture could bring forth so relentless a critic is perhaps one of the reasons to still think well of it.”
- A visit to southeast London.
- Advice for students: “To get an education, you’re probably going to have to fight against the institution that you find yourself in—no matter how prestigious it may be. (In fact, the more prestigious the school, the more you’ll probably have to push.) You can get a terrific education in America now—there are astonishing opportunities at almost every college—but the education will not be presented to you wrapped and bowed. To get it, you’ll need to struggle and strive, to be strong, and occasionally even to piss off some admirable people.”
Toward the end of Lewis Carroll’s endlessly unfurling saga Sylvie & Bruno, we find the duo sitting at the feet of Mein Herr, an impish fellow endowed with a giant cranium. The quirky little man regales the children with stories about life on his mysterious home planet.
“And then came the grandest idea of all! We actually made a map of the country, on the scale of a mile to the mile!”
“Have you used it much?” I enquired.
“It has never been spread out, yet,” said Mein Herr. “The farmers objected: they said it would cover the whole country, and shut out the sunlight! So we now use the country itself, as its own map, and I assure you it does nearly as well.”
Among Mein Herr’s many big ideas, none is as familiar to us as the Grand Map. We use it, or a version of it, on a daily basis. With Google Street View, which allows us to traverse instantly from a schematic road map into the tumult of the road itself, we boldly zoom from the map to the territory and back. As the Herr said, “we now use the country itself as its own map.” Read More