Last month I was in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan and took a few hours to do some book shopping and literary site seeing. My personal tour included walking past the Hotel Chelsea, which has been home to literary notables such as Arthur C. Clarke, Allen Ginsberg, Dylan Thomas, Arthur Miller, to name but a few. The hotel is currently undergoing major rennovations and is not available to tourists or book bloggers.
Fortunately, I was more interested in some of the book stores. 192 Books is a deceptively small book store, with floor to ceiling shelves of books along with several tables. It is well stocked full of fiction, nonfiction, children's and young adultt fare. I saw plenty of books that interested me including a set of books by the French Conceptual Artist Sophie Calle. After close to an hour of browsing I picked up Rebecca Solnit's River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild Wild West (2003) because Solnit never disappoints in her insightful musings on landscapes, culture and her own personal history. I also purchased a hardback copy of John Rodrigo Dos Passos's USA Trilogy, which includes The 42nd Parallel, Nineteen Nineteen and The Big Money -- all written during The Great Depression.
I read the trilogy in the Signet paperback editions years ago, but remember it well. Dos Passos captures the energy, excitement and corruption of America in its rise to power in the first quarter of the twentieth century. Exploitation of the working class by the capitalists and a willingness to take up arms overseas were just two of the themes of Dos Passos books. Not much has changed. (Dos Passos's storytelling technique of mixing historical figures with fictional characters was groundbreaking as well). Dos Passos was empathetic to the plight of the workers, but later he became disallusioned with radical politics and was more conservative in his views. Still the three books remain as his literary legacy.
After 192 Books, I walked across the street to Printed Matter, Inc., a bookstore for an organization that specializes in the dissemination, understanding and appreciation of artists books. (This experience deserves a posting of its own at a later date.)
My personal lit tour ended at Revolution Books, a sparsely stocked bookstore (compared to the inventory at 192) that had a selection of books more political in nature, especially those directed at our government's shenanigans. But they had a few that interested me such as Errol Morris' Believing is Seeing: Observations on the Mysteries of Photography (2011). I ended up purchasing 100 Diagrams That Changed the World (2012) by Scott Christianson. The irony of the transaction didn't escape me at the cash register as the bookseller tried to "upsell" me into buying a Revolution newspaper. I told the man that I had already bought The Dos Passos's U.S.A. Trilogy earlier in the day, but that wasn't enough to satisfy him.