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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Broken umbrellas and literary New York

The NY Times offers a guide to literary sites in New York City, and it sounds like they've been following Alice around:
...perhaps more than any other American city, New York has been a beacon to writers and a ready-made backdrop for novels. So much so that it's entirely possible to plan a vacation based solely around literary New York — to eat at the same restaurants, stay in the same hotels, explore the same city as a beloved fictional character. (Try that in, say, Tulsa.) This journey may reveal a fresh glimpse of a city that is, tantalizingly, never fully knowable. As the novelist Paul Auster writes in "The New York Trilogy:" "New York was an inexhaustible space, a labyrinth of endless steps, and no matter how far he walked, no matter how well he came to know its neighborhoods and streets, it always left him with the feeling of being lost." Here, Mr. Auster is setting down the thoughts of his protagonist, Quinn, a mystery writer. But both men know that New York is a place worth getting lost in any time of the year. [emph added]
It's disappointing that writer Stephen Kurutz went so far as to quote Auster's City of Glass (Amazon, Wikipedia), but failed to mention the labyrinthine walking tour of Manhattan included in the book, which Alice once retraced on foot according to Auster's description.

This page dedicated to Auster's New York Trilogy (of which City of Glass is part 1) continues the connections to Alice, with a passage from Auster that I didn't notice when I read City of Glass:

When I say the word "umbrella", you see the object in your mind. You see a kind of stick, with collapsible metal spokes on top that form an armature for a waterproof material which, when opened, will protect you from the rain. This last detail is important. Not only is the umbrella a thing, it is a thing that performs a function - in other words, expresses the will of man... my question is this. What happens when a thing no longer performs its function? Is it still the thing, or has it become something else?
To assist in contemplating this, the author proceeds to MercBar, where he collaborates with a bartender to invent a drink they call the "Broken Umbrella":
The cocktail consists of three principal ingredients, each symbolizing different elements of this chapter: The umbrella is represented by Amazonian rainforest Acai berry juice; it is broken by the addition of vanilla vodka; and finally my seduction of the broken umbrella image is represented by a mixture of Godiva chocolate and creme de cocoa.
The Times can't compare with stuff like this. I mean, out of Lawrence Block's bajillion Bernie Rhodenbarr detective novels set in NYC, the only landmark Kurutz comes up with is the West Side's Morningstar Diner. Why not include the Cooper-Hewitt Museum, where Bernie was forced to pull off the daytime heist of a fake Mondrian, so he could use it to bait a killer?

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Blogger Alice on Tue May 16, 09:56:00 AM:
Here's the link to my list about umbrella corpses and bats (I'll add the City of Glass stuff eventually).
Anonymous Tove Hermanson on Sun Aug 30, 11:19:00 PM:
When I went to Paris the last time, I was plowing through the ex-pats' novels / (fake) auto-bios, etc. to get me in the mood. To entertain myself while my friend Ashley worked, I walked myself around using A Movable Feast as my general guide. It was so immensely satisfying, incorporating (many) pubs and cafes in addition to fountains and squares.