Friday, September 19, 2014

Eugene O'Neill

The literature of New York can not be discussed without including that most important of writer, the playwright! New York is known for Broadway and Eugene O'Neill was destined to be a part of that history, being literally born for it, coming into this world right in Times Square at the corner of Broadway and 43rd Street, it's now a Starbucks, but at least there's a plaque. The plaque in fact states he is "America's Greatest Playwright" and it is hard to argue with that fact. O'Neill brought the realism of plays that was being employed abroad by Ibsen, Chekhov, and Strindberg, to the United States in plays rich with the American vernacular and people on the fringes of society whose stories would usually end in tragedy and disillusionment. His most famous plays are The Iceman Cometh, Long Day's Journey Into Night, and A Moon for the Misbegotten. Though I hold a special place in my heart for The Hairy Ape, having read this play for my undergraduate degree in Theatre, and being forever amused by the death by ape ending. I think it's just the idea of having to have a man in an ape suit onstage in the 1920s that makes me laugh and oddly think of Trading Places...

Of all O'Neill's work though it's The Iceman Cometh that many hold most dear, especially if they don't find apes as funny as I do. O'Neill got his idea for this seminal work from hanging out at his local "hell hole" The Golden Swan, and immortalized it and it's owner, Thomas Wallace, in the play. Occasionally O'Neill was known for sleeping one off in Wallace's apartment above the Swan. The Golden Swan was Greenwich Village's seediest yet most influential hangout for the artists and playwrights of the Village. The patrons made the Swan famous, O'Neill being the most famous. Though O'Neill loved to refer to it by it's secondary name, "Hell Hole," and frequented it on and off throughout his life. Sadly it didn't survive the construction of the subway lines under New York that required many buildings to be torn down. 

But as often happens, if something is destroyed in New York it comes back in another form. Oddly enough the seedy bar has taken seed and grown some roots and become a garden. On the site of such former debauchery there is now the Golden Swan Garden. Next to the West 4th Street Courts at West 4th Street and the Avenue of the Americas (aka 6th Avenue) you can enjoy this little slice of wildlife. In fact, after visiting the Garden you can continue east on West 4th Street as it turns into Washington Square South and you'll be passing by Eugene O'Neill's home (think how drunk he was when he couldn't make it the two blocks home)! Sadly NYU has taken over and rebuilt many of the buildings on the south end of the park so 38 Washington Square South doesn't exist anymore, so this is more a tour of buildings that no longer exist. But as I said with Edith Wharton, the whole area around Washington Square Park retains that old world charm, and you can stalk two dead authors at the same time!

But I feel to really pay homage to O'Neill you need to go to Broadway. And I don't mean just to take in a plaque at Starbucks, I mean, go to a show! Sure Broadway is all about the magic of the musical, and I can't deny the lure, having taken in a musical almost every time I have been to New York. But Broadway is so much more. It's plays written by the greatest writers in the world performed by the most amazing talent out there. Yes, it's great to see a play anywhere and to support the arts, but if you want the pinnacle of perfection, the true theatrical experience, then you need to go to New York!

And there is one theatre you should visit above all others, the Eugene O'Neill Theatre. Located at 230 West 49th Street, it's between 8th Avenue and Broadway. Six years after O'Neill's death the Coronet Theatre was renamed after him. For awhile another great American Playwright, Neil Simon, owned it, but now it's owned by a theatrical producing company, Jujamcyn Theaters, that owns many other theatres. In recent years it has put on two very well known and successful musicals that seemed a bit outre before the reviews started flooding in, I'm talking about Spring Awakening, and the show that is still there, The Book of Morman. So, when you go to "The Great White Way" think of the fact that it would never have happened, would never have been possible if not for writers like O'Neill, out there putting stories into the world and up onto the boards. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Edith Wharton

When one thinks of old New York and the literary scene you can't help but instantly think of Edith Wharton. Wharton was a writer of great note, she was not only repeatedly nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature, but won the Pulitzer Prize for The Age of Innocence. Friends with many of the literary elite of the day, she was able to combine her insider's view of America's privileged classes with her own insights to create works with depth and a social and psychological conscience. Her books captured New York at the turning of the last century for all readers. What better way to step into the past then to pick up The Age of Innocence and be lost in the doomed affair of Newland Archer and the Countess Olenska? But what is truly amazing about New York is that there are pockets within the city that have barely changed in a hundred years. There are houses and parks that remain just as they are, like they are trapped in a little time bubble. It is just as easy to get lost on a side street and end up in Wharton's world as it is to turn the pages of a book.

Washington Square Park was the epicenter of literature and wealth at the end of the 1800s, before everyone fled uptown. Being in the heart of Greenwich Village, it is still a center for culture, only a little less affluent. Aside from a lack of gallows, this park located at the end of 5th Avenue could easily be the same as it was when Wharton looked out her windows. A few years back when I was visiting New York I was in search of the old city and was on my way to the Merchant's House Museum, which is a mere five blocks away from Washington Square Park, so obviously the park became part of this visit. While this isn't about that museum visit I still have to mention it because it was amazing and perfect for those looking for lost New York in that it is one of the only houses still exactly as it was when it was built in 1832. Plus if you visit in the fall, which I did, they deck the whole place out in Victorian mourning, which was beyond fascinating. But I doubt their claims that the house is haunted, I'm pretty good at picking up on the weird vibes, and I felt nothing, aside from being freaked out by a mannequin in a bed.

Anyway, back to Washington Square. While yes, the arch does dominate the scene, I found myself entranced by the luscious red brick buildings that surround the park. Of course it was one of these buildings that Wharton lived in. Before leaving the city of her birth and building The Mount up in Massachusetts, she lived at 7 Washington Square North. As Wharton sat in her house she could look out and see Robert Lewis Stevenson talking to Mark Twain, as they met there in 1888. Many artists from the Hudson River School might have dropped by the park to paint it. At the nearby Hotel Albert, 23 East 10th Street, three blocks away from the park on the corner of University Place and East 10th Street, everyone from Walt Whitman to William Faulkner were mingling. Wharton had the cream of the literary crop always a moment away.

There is a feeling in the park that I can't describe, an old and a new coming together to form that ineffable feeling that is what makes New York so unique and indescribable all at the same time. This painting captures for me that feeling in a way my words will always fail. Looking at this gorgeous painting Wharton's house would be that building on the right of the arc. She was there. She was in the center of it all. She is, in my mind, what true Literary New York is and always will be.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Tuesday Tomorrow

The Blood of an Englishman by M.C. Beaton
Published by: Minotaur Books
Publication Date: September 16th, 2014
Format: Hardcover, 304 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Fee, fie, fo, fum. I smell the blood of an Englishman...

Even though Agatha Raisin loathes amateur dramatics, her friend Mrs. Bloxby, the vicar’s wife, has persuaded her to support the local pantomime. Stifling a yawn at the production of "Babes in the Woods," Agatha watches the baker playing an ogre strut and threaten on the stage, until a trapdoor opens and the Ogre disappears in an impressive puff of smoke. Only he doesn't re-appear at final curtain.

Surely this isn't the way the scene was rehearsed? When it turns out the popular baker has been murdered, Agatha puts her team of private detectives on the case. They soon discover more feuds and temperamental behavior in amateur theatrics than in a professional stage show—and face more and more danger as the team gets too close to the killer.

The Blood of an Englishman is Agatha's 25th adventure, and you'd think she would have learned by now not to keep making the same mistakes. Alas, no—yet Agatha's flaws only make her more endearing. In this sparkling new entry in M. C. Beaton's New York Times bestselling series of modern cozies, Agatha Raisin once again "manages to infuriate, amuse, and solicit our deepest sympathies as we watch her blunder her way boldly through another murder mystery.""

For my mom, the Agatha Raisin addict... twenty five books and still going strong!

Raging Heat by Richard Castle
Published by: Kingswell
Publication Date: September 16th, 2014
Format: Hardcover, 304 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"In New York Times Bestselling author Richard Castle's newest novel, an illegal immigrant falls from the sky and NYPD Homicide Detective Nikki Heat's investigation into his death quickly captures the imagination of her boyfriend the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Jameson Rook. When he decides to work the case with Heat as his next big story, Nikki is at first happy to have him ride along. Yes, she must endure Rook's usual wild conspiracy speculations and adolescent wisecracks, but after reuniting following his recent assignment abroad, she's glad for the entertainment, the chance to bounce ideas, and just to be close to him again and feel the old spark rekindle. But when Rook's inquiry concludes that Detective Heat has arrested the wrong man for the murder, everything changes.

Balancing her high stakes job with a complicated romance has been a challenge ever since Nikki fell for the famous reporter. Now, her relationship lurches from mere complexity into sharp conflict over the most high-risk case of her career. Set against the raging force of Hurricane Sandy as it pounds New York, Heat battles an ambitious powerbroker, fights a platoon of urban mercenaries, and clashes with the man she loves. Detective Heat knows her job is to solve murders. She just worries that solving this one will be the death of her relationship."

Must be fall, because whenever a new season of Castle starts, you can be sure of a new book on the shelves!

The Clockwork Dagger by Beth Cato
Published by: Harper Voyager
Publication Date: September 16th, 2014
Format: Paperback, 368 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Full of magic, mystery, and romance, an enchanting steampunk fantasy debut in the bestselling vein of Trudi Canavan and Gail Carriger.

Orphaned as a child, Octavia Leander was doomed to grow up on the streets until Miss Percival saved her and taught her to become a medician. Gifted with incredible powers, the young healer is about to embark on her first mission, visiting suffering cities in the far reaches of the war-scarred realm. But the airship on which she is traveling is plagued by a series of strange and disturbing occurrences, including murder, and Octavia herself is threatened.

Suddenly, she is caught up in a flurry of intrigue: the dashingly attractive steward may be one of the infamous Clockwork Daggers—the Queen’s spies and assassins—and her cabin-mate harbors disturbing secrets. But the danger is only beginning, for Octavia discovers that the deadly conspiracy aboard the airship may reach the crown itself."

Time for some Steampunky fun!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Charles Addams

Charles Addams might be an odd inclusion for literary New York, but I ask you this, have any of the authors profiled so far been able to so completely tell a story with just a line or two of text and an image? I should think not. Also, if we want to get technical, his work was complied into many books and he was given an honorary Edgar Award for his body of work, so there. Charles Addams was America's premiere cartoonist for all things dark and macabre. His unique sense of humor was able to tap into some deeply shared hive mind bleakness that made his work relatable to everyone. With his comics making the leap to television his name became famous overnight with The Addams Family. Because that kooky family literally couldn't be thought of as anything else then his own creations, hence his family.

Chas Addams published his first cartoon on January 13th, 1940. He would go on to draw more then 1,300 in his lifetime, many of which were published by The New Yorker. As I have previously mentioned, The New Yorker eventually moved from Hell's Kitchen to right across the street from The Algonquin, making it easier for many of the writers to slip out for "board meetings." Their new location was at 28 West 44th Street, between 5th and 6th Avenue.

The facade of the building was changed a little when new owners took over in the early nineties, but the trace of the offices that Addams would exclusively visit and was "often present on the premises" of remains with this lovely "Literary Landmark" plaque. Don't expect to find it hunting on google maps trying to make your imaginary visit as real as possible. Sadly you'll have to actually visit New York because this plaque is located in the building's vestibule. And if you look closely, a certain "Cartoonist" Charles Addams is mentioned on the plaque! Eat your heart out Dorothy Parker!

Because Chas's literature is a visual type of storytelling, he gets a few more pictures then the other authors profiled this month... and also because I seriously can't choose a favorite with his work.  Each and everyone one of his covers for The New Yorker could be framed and have pride of place on your wall. But what I think most interesting to point out here is that his work fit well with The New Yorker because there was something so specific about it that made you feel as if these comics could only happen in that thriving metropolis. A combination of the macabre and the urban that captured New York City's zeitgeist.

Addams also captured the fringes of society, the weirdness that is on the outskirts, right out of view, right at the transition from urban to suburban, he captured it with such deftness. If you look at these two covers, you'll realize that both are from 1961. Just think of Addams's popularity to do multiple covers in a single year!

I can not talk about Chas without talking about his cars, after all it was his passion and he had his fatal heart attack sitting in one in front of his apartment. He was able to capture this dichotomy from urban to suburban because he often travelled back and forth between his apartment in the city and his house in Sagaponack, New York. As he raced along the streets he was able to see this transition and then put it into images. That house in the Hamptons is now home to the Tee and Charles Addams Foundation, where his studio remains intact, and the Foundation carries on works in his name.

But if you don't feel like leaving the city, then it's time for another stop on our stalking dead authors tour... between 5th and 6th Avenue directly behind MOMA if you are looking up the island, was Chas's home in the city. Here is an excerpt from Linda Davis's Charles Addams: A Cartoonist's Life describing her visit there:

"The Addams dwelling at 25 West Fifty-fourth Street was directly behind the Museum of Modern Art, at the top of the building. It was reached by an ancient elevator, which rumbled up to the twelfth floor. From there, one climbed through a red-painted stairwell where a real mounted crossbow hovered. The Addams door was marked by a "big black number 13," and a knocker in the shape of a vampire.

The apartment consisted of the top two floors of the building. It stood under a leaky ten-thousand-gallon water tank which had flooded the bedroom at least once, destroying the drawings, photographs, papers, and other mementos Addams kept in boxes under the bed, as well as on closet shelves. The layout was equally eccentric. The bedroom, where Addams worked most of the time, was upstairs, accessible to the downstairs living room and kitchen only by outside service stairs.

Inside, one entered a little kingdom that fulfilled every fantasy one might have entertained about its inhabitant. On a pedestal in the corner of the bookcase stood a rare "Maximilian" suit of armor, which Addams had bought at a good price ("a bargain at $700") from the Litchfield Collection at Sotheby's Parke-Bernet gallery thirty years earlier. It was joined by a half suit, a North Italian Morion of "Spanish" form, circa 1570–80, and a collection of warrior helmets, perched on long stalks like decapitated heads: a late sixteenth-century German burgonet; a German trooper's lobster tail pot helmet, circa 1650; and the pointed fore-and-aft helmet from the sixteenth-century Italian suit, which was elaborately etched with game trophies, men-at-arms, monsters, birds. There were enough arms and armaments to defend the Addams fortress against the most persistent invader: wheel-lock guns; an Italian prod; two maces; three swords. Above a sofa bed, a spectacular array of medieval crossbows rose like birds in flight. "Don't worry, they've only fallen down once," Addams once told an overnight guest. The valuable pieces of medieval weaponry, which would ultimately fetch $220,113 at auction, mingled with books, framed cartoons and illustrations, photographs of classic cars, gruesome artifacts, and such inexpensive mementos as a mounted rubber bat.

Everywhere one looked in the apartment, something caught the eye. A rare papier-mâché and polychrome anatomical study figure, nineteenth century, with removable organs and body parts captioned in French, protected by a glass bell. ("It's not exactly another human heart beating in the house, but it's close enough," said Addams.) A set of engraved aquatint plates from an antique book on armor. A lamp in the shape of a miniature suit of armor, topped by a black shade. There were various snakes; biopsy scissors ("It reaches inside, and nips a little piece of flesh," explained Addams); and a shiny human thighbone — a Christmas present from one wife. There was a sewing basket fashioned from an armadillo, a gift from another.

In front of the couch stood a most unusual coffee table — "a drying out table," the man at the wonderfully named antiques shop, the Gettysburg Sutler, had called it. ("What was dried on it?" a reporter had asked. "Bodies," said Addams.) The table had holes in each corner for draining the fluids, a rusted adjustable headrest, and a mechanism for raising and lowering the neck. There was also, Addams genially pointed out, "a rather sinister stain in what would be the region of the kidneys." The table was covered with the usual decorative objects — a Baccarat goblet, a couple of plates, a miniature castle, a bowl of ceramic nesting snakes."

As a final stop, I think it's time to see some of these works in person. Sadly, because the two times I was in this New York institution I had not heard of this gallery I can not verify if it is still there, but Neil Gaiman and the Tee and Charles Addams Foundation back me up, so there's hope... At the Main Branch of The New York Public Library at West 40th Street located right on 5th Avenue there is a gallery devoted to Charles Addams. As Gaiman said "[t]o this day, one of my favourite places in the world is the tiny Charles Addams art gallery on the third floor of the New York Library (follow the signs to the Mens' Toilets and it's just before you get there)." So follow those directions from Neil and revel in the artwork of a man who was a literary great and was somehow able to capture what it meant to be human and a New Yorker, in the most wickedly delightful way possible.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Dorothy Parker

"It occurs to me that there are other towns. It occurs to me so violently that I say, at intervals, "Very well, if New York is going to be like this, I'm going to live somewhere else." And I do — that's the funny part of it. But then one day there comes to me the sharp picture of New York at its best, on a shiny blue-and-white Autumn day with its buildings cut diagonally in halves of light and shadow, with its straight neat avenues colored with quick throngs, like confetti in a breeze. Some one, and I wish it had been I, has said that "Autumn is the Springtime of big cities." I see New York at holiday time, always in the late afternoon, under a Maxfield Parish sky, with the crowds even more quick and nervous but even more good-natured, the dark groups splashed with the white of Christmas packages, the lighted holly-strung shops urging them in to buy more and more. I see it on a Spring morning, with the clothes of the women as soft and as hopeful as the pretty new leaves on a few, brave trees. I see it at night, with the low skies red with the black-flung lights of Broadway, those lights of which Chesterton — or they told me it was Chesterton — said, "What a marvelous sight for those who cannot read!" I see it in the rain, I smell the enchanting odor of wet asphalt, with the empty streets black and shining as ripe olives. I see it — by this time, I become maudlin with nostalgia — even with its gray mounds of crusted snow, its little Appalachians of ice along the pavements. So I go back. And it is always better than I thought it would be."

Dorothy Parker was one of the 20th century's most clever, caustic, witty writers. As a member of the Algonquin Round Table she became famous as much for her biting remarks as for her brilliant writing. A prolific poet and critic, Dorothy published more than 300 poems in the 1920s. The collection of her writing, The Portable Dorothy Parker, has never gone out of print. In the 1920s and afterward, Dorothy Parker contributed to The New Yorker and Esquire, making her a landmark of the literary scene in New York.

And when you're talking landmarks of Literary New York, there's one place that you have to visit, and that's The Algonquin. The Algonquin is at 59 West 44th Street, between 5th and 6th Avenue, or if you're being pedantic, 5th Avenue and the Avenue of the Americas. The hotel's first desk clerk, and eventual owner, Frank Case, fostered the arts and in particular struggling writers creating an environment in which the Round Table, that most vicious of circles, was able to bloom. From 1919 to 1929 most of the writers and wits for The New Yorker and other magazines would pop by and have a long lunch wherein they would trade barbed insults and try to one up each other. Not only is this hotel key for your true Literary New York experience, but it's key to Dorothy Parker. She was not only a member of the vicious circle, but she was a resident of the hotel on and off and her ghost is reputed to haunt the halls.

The group first gathered in the Algonquin's Pergola Room (now called The Oak Room) at a long rectangular table. As they increased in number, Algonquin manager Frank Case moved them to the Rose Room and a round table. Initially the group called itself "The Board" and the luncheons "Board meetings." After being assigned a waiter named Luigi, the group re-christened itself "Luigi Board." Finally they became "The Vicious Circle" although "The Round Table" gained wide currency after cartoonist Edmund Duffy of the Brooklyn Eagle caricatured the group sitting at a round table and wearing armor. To join this hallowed group "the price of admission [was] a serpent's tongue and a half-concealed stiletto."

Despite all the famous writers and celebrities who have lived at The Algonquin over the years I can't help but smile at the hotel's most famous current resident, Matilda the Cat! The tradition of having a cat in the hotel was started by Frank Case after he took in a stray. Though Frank didn't realize what he was starting with that first cat, Hamlet, who was named after that famous Dane by John Barrymore. Since then many a Hamlet and a Matilda have lived there. So go for the cat, stay for the literature!

As a final note I find it vastly entertaining that the offices of The New Yorker were actually located right across the street from The Algonquin, making Vicious Circle meetings easy to slip out to, but that location must wait for another day. Parker and her cronies where in at the beginning, and instead of starting out on West 44th street, the original offices where in the house of it's founder, Harold Ross and Jane Grant. Located in Hell's Kitchen, at 412 West 47th Street between 9th and 10th Avenue, the little white four story house is still standing, if you care to pay homage to a magazine that has fostered the arts for almost a century. The past and the present merge in New York, to create living history and an experience you won't easily forget if you are lucky enough to visit.

"I suppose that is the thing about New York. It is always a little more than you had hoped for. Each day, there, is so definitely a new day. "Now we'll start over," it seems to say every morning, "and come on, let's hurry like anything."

London is satisfied, Paris is resigned, but New York is always hopeful. Always it believes that something good is about to come off, and it must hurry to meet it. There is excitement ever running its streets. Each day, as you go out, you feel the little nervous quiver that is yours when you sit in the theater just before the curtain rises. Other places may give you a sweet and soothing sense of level; but in New York there is always the feeling of "Something's going to happen." It isn't peace. But, you know, you do get used to peace, and so quickly. And you never get used to New York."

Monday, September 8, 2014

Tuesday Tomorrow

The King's Curse by Philippa Gregory
Published by: Touchstone
Publication Date: September 9th, 2014
Format: Hardcover, 624 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"From the #1 New York Times bestselling author behind the Starz original series The White Queen comes the story of lady-in-waiting Margaret Pole and her unique view of King Henry VIII’s stratospheric rise to power in Tudor England.

Regarded as yet another threat to the volatile King Henry VII’s claim to the throne, Margaret Pole, cousin to Elizabeth of York (known as the White Princess) and daughter of George, Duke of Clarence, is married off to a steady and kind Lancaster supporter—Sir Richard Pole. For his loyalty, Sir Richard is entrusted with the governorship of Wales, but Margaret’s contented daily life is changed forever with the arrival of Arthur, the young Prince of Wales, and his beautiful bride, Katherine of Aragon. Margaret soon becomes a trusted advisor and friend to the honeymooning couple, hiding her own royal connections in service to the Tudors.

After the sudden death of Prince Arthur, Katherine leaves for London a widow, and fulfills her deathbed promise to her husband by marrying his brother, Henry VIII. Margaret’s world is turned upside down by the surprising summons to court, where she becomes the chief lady-in-waiting to Queen Katherine. But this charmed life of the wealthiest and “holiest” woman in England lasts only until the rise of Anne Boleyn, and the dramatic deterioration of the Tudor court. Margaret has to choose whether her allegiance is to the increasingly tyrannical king, or to her beloved queen; to the religion she loves or the theology which serves the new masters. Caught between the old world and the new, Margaret Pole has to find her own way as she carries the knowledge of an old curse on all the Tudors."

After binging on The White Queen I am SO READY for more of the Cousins' War!

Nightmares by Jason Segel
Published by: Delacorte Books for Young Readerse
Publication Date: September 9th, 2014
Format: Hardcover, 368 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Jason Segel, multitalented actor, writer, and musician, teams up with New York Times bestselling author Kirsten Miller for the hilariously frightening middle-grade novel Nightmares!, the first book in a trilogy about a boy named Charlie and a group of kids who must face their fears to save their town.

Sleeping has never been so scary. And now waking up is even worse!

Charlie Laird has several problems.

1. His dad married a woman he is sure moonlights as a witch.

2. He had to move into her purple mansion, which is NOT a place you want to find yourself after dark.

3.He can’t remember the last time sleeping wasn’t a nightmarish prospect. Like even a nap.

What Charlie doesn’t know is that his problems are about to get a whole lot more real. Nightmares can ruin a good night’s sleep, but when they start slipping out of your dreams and into the waking world—that’s a line that should never be crossed.

And when your worst nightmares start to come true . . . well, that’s something only Charlie can face. And he’s going to need all the help he can get, or it might just be lights-out for Charlie Laird. For good."

I was really sad I couldn't go to BEA this year, mainly because Jason Segel was there... at least I have this book... and my love for Jason Segel.

Engines of War by George Mann
Published by: Broadway Books
Publication Date: September 9th, 2014
Format: Paperback, 320 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
""I've had many faces. Many lives. I don't admit to all of them. There's one life I've tried very hard to forget-the Doctor who fought in the Time War."

The Great Time War has raged for centuries, ravaging the universe. The Daleks and the Time Lords deploy ever more dangerous weapons in desperate attempts at victory, but there is no end in sight.

On the outer rim of the Tantalus Eye, scores of human colony planets are now overrun by Dalek occupation forces. A weary, angry Doctor leads a flotilla of Battle TARDISes against the Dalek stronghold but in the midst of the carnage, the Doctor's TARDIS crashes to a planet below: Moldox.

As the Doctor is trapped in an apocalyptic landscape, Dalek patrols roam amongst the wreckage, rounding up the remaining civilians. But why haven't the Daleks simply killed the humans?

Searching for answers, the Doctor meets 'Cinder', a young Dalek hunter. Their struggles to discover the Dalek plan take them from the ruins of Moldox to the halls of Gallifrey and set in chain events that will change everything. And everyone."

While there are many new Doctor Who books coming out today, all with Doctors who have never had a book yet, this is the one I'm most excited for! Why? War + my friend George Mann = Win!

Mr. Punch by Neil Gaiman
Published by: Vertigo
Publication Date: September 9th, 2014
Format: Hardcover, 112 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"A dark and frightening fully painted novella, MR. PUNCH tells the tale of a young boy's loss of innocence results from a horrific confrontation with his past. Spending a summer at his grandfather's seaside arcade, a troubled adolescent harmlessly becomes involved with a mysterious Punch and Judy Man and a mermaid-portraying woman. But when the violent puppet show triggers buried memories of the boy's family, the lives of all become feverishly intertwined. With disturbing mysteries and half-truths uncontrollably unraveling, the young boy is forced to deal with his family's dark secrets of violence, betrayal, and guilt.

Written by New York Times best-selling novelist Neil Gaiman, with unwordly illustrations by artist Dave McKean, MR. PUNCH - 20TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION is the new deluxe cut of this landmark original graphic novel. Includes bonus material."

A swanky anniversary edition! Also, it's Mr. Punch, who if he doesn't, should definitely scare you!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Truman Capote

Truman Capote is known more for his celebrity then for his writing, causing almost as much controversy and discussion with his author photographs and lifestyle choices as with his prose. Which is in some aspects fair, he was quite a character in his own right and never hid his homosexuality in a bigoted era, and he knew how to get publicity, much like the aspiring artist Andy Warhol who greatly admired him; but also in other aspects not quite just, because Capote was a magnificent writer and his celebrity often eclipsed his written work. Before he was even ten he moved to New York with his family and would forever belong to the city. In fact at 19 he already had a job working as a copyboy at The New Yorker (an institution that will feature prominently in the lives of many of the authors profiled this month). Getting his start publishing short stories in many magazines, including the aforementioned New Yorker, brought him to the attention of publishers, in particular Random House, and his first novel was begun.

Capote dabbled in everything from Broadway to films, while touring the Soviet Union with a production of Porgy and Bess he wrote what would become his first non-fiction book, a genre that he would be renowned for when he wrote In Cold Blood in 1965. But the work that captured everyone was his novella Breakfast a Tiffany's. As George Costanza learned to his dismay, while popularized by the 1961 movie with Audrey Hepburn, the original story written in 1958 is far different. But just because they differ doesn't mean that you can't still relive either or both as you wander through New York.

The iconic store and storefront still remain, located just two blocks south of Central Park East at 727 5th Avenue at the corner of West 57th Street and 5th Avenue. I will be interested if you get up the nerve to go in, I never have. Oddly enough most people miss the store. The reason for this is that Trump Tower does loom over the old structure quite alarmingly. Those gaudy gold colored letters spelling out Trump's domain is redolent of the eighties, as is the whole structure. But when looking at the greedy monstrosity, just shift your gaze a little to the left and there is Tiffany and Co. I knew this one girl who went to New York (not me in "disguise," but actually someone else) and was so sad she had missed getting "breakfast" at Tiffany's, and as she was showing me her pictures I said, but you got the edge of the building. I showed her that in her picture of Trump Tower, that shift to beautiful pink stone was where she had wanted to go all along and missed. A sad realization to make once you're already back in Wisconsin.

Yet Manhattan Island isn't the only place where you can stalk the great writer now long gone. Literally just over the Brooklyn bridge is his old residence. Capote said he "live[d] in Brooklyn. By choice." Who wouldn't want to live in this house at 70 Willow Street between Orange Street and Pineapple Street? Besides the wonderful street names the lemony colored house looks spacious and inviting, though I don't expect anyone I know would be able to afford the price tag. Capote's house recently sold for $14 million. But that is the joy of walking in Literary New York and the surrounding areas, you can gawk for free and let Capote's haunting words wash over you: “I love New York, even though it isn't mine, the way something has to be, a tree or a street or a house, something, anyway, that belongs to me because I belong to it."

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Helene Hanff

When I think of literary New York I think of Helene Hanff. The diminutive author of the literary classic 84, Charing Cross Road is the definitive New Yorker, despite being born in Pennsylvania. Helene became the voice of America, and more importantly New York, to all of England when she published her correspondence between herself and Frank Doel, the British book seller, in 84, Charing Cross Road. The book changed her life. Helene was finally able to visit England and do the type of long dead literary stalking I dream to do in New York. She also saw her life transferred to radio, television, film, and stage (realizing her lifelong dream of being a playwright). And as a side note, also a bit ironic for someone who didn't like the limelight and even hated having her picture taken (take the above picture as proof, as she is obviously trying to dissuade the photographer).

In her seminal book there was a connection forged between a store in England and a home in New York, a home which she mentions is "a real apartment with real furniture" which she moved into "AFTER September 1 [1956], 305 East 72nd St., New York, N.Y." She bought into this little apartment before it was even built, sadly she couldn't very well afford this Upper East Side location today. Charing Cross House, named after her book, is located at East 72nd Street and 2nd Avenue, there's a plaque and everything! Why does this apartment hold such fascination for me? Because my favorite book of Helene's is actually a collection of five minute radio pieces she did for the BBC's Women's Hour Broadcast called Letter from New York. In it we get a glimpse of Helene's day to day life. How she walked around the block every night with the apartment's dogs. How the building wasn't just part of a neighborhood, it was a community, a city entire onto itself within one of the greatest cities in the world.

And the closeness of Central Park was just an added bonus. If you continue from Helene's apartment on 72nd street westward five blocks later you will enter the park at the 72nd street entrance. Here is the little conservatory where people sail their model boats, made famous by such books as Stuart Little. Here you can see the statue of Hans Christian Anderson reading, usually being climbed on by gaggles of children, or literary geeks who have always been susceptible to climbing on public art. If you infer that that is me I shall not correct you. And just to the north of the water feature is one of my favorite places in central park, the statue of Alice in Wonderland. The fact that I love and enjoy a place that also resonated with Helene brings me more joy then you can imagine.

If you were to continue going north on East Drive, past Alice, you will hit the 79th Street Transverse. Back in 2005 when I went to New York several times the 79th Street Transverse was my path from the West Side to the MET. I wish I had taken a little more time examining the surroundings then just using it as a conduit. At the foot of the Belvedere Castle there is a little garden. If I had but done more then just glimpse at the wooden fencing I might have learned that this is Shakespeare's Garden. Helene adored this garden because it contains every flower mentioned in the works of Shakespeare.

In Letter from New York Helene mentions how her heart broke when the garden fell into disrepair. But New Yorkers love Central Park, as it's basically their communal backyard, so some industrious New Yorkers took to restoring it. Though the restorers weren't able to get all the plants because many were only available in England. This is where Helene's listeners came in. They heard the broadcast and inundated the little rescue project with seeds and flowers to restore the garden to it's previous glory.  Since then the little garden has remained in good repair, with new walkways and even bronze plaques with quotes from the Bard littering the pathways. So as you luxuriate in the beauty, take a moment to remember Helene, a true original who contributed more to literature and New York then most know.

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