We were only in New York for two days, but that was plenty of time to visit two new (to us) bookstores, hear an author speak, and go to an exhibit about Corduroy!
Our first stop was the Museum of the City of New York where the exhibit, A City for Corduroy, is there until June 23. The famous stuffed bear – who is missing a button on his green overalls – was “born” in 1968 when Don Freeman published his most well-known book, Corduroy. Freeman also published numerous other picture books for children (including my favorite, Norman the Doorman) and was equally well-regarded for his illustrations of Broadway in the 1930s.
I learned that the original Corduroy story did not include Lisa’s mother’s saying to her daughter: “not today dear….I’ve spent too much already.” In the first draft, it was only the missing button that prevented Corduroy from going home with Lisa that day. “I’m sure we can find a perfect bear for you,” she tells Lisa:
Another priority for this trip was to branch out from our regular go-to NYC bookstores, McNally Jackson and the Strand, and visit two stores on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Kitchen Arts and Letters, on Lexington Avenue, is a legendary cookbook store.
Even though I’m not capable of cooking much more than Annie’s Macaroni and Cheese, I am lucky to be married to a wonderful cook – and he loved this store. In fact, he seemed kind of overwhelmed by the selection. According to their website, Kitchen Arts and Letters has over 12,000 cookbooks in stock. The website also says that Laurie Colwin was one of the store’s early customers. That was enough for me. Laurie Colwin is one of my all-time favorite writers so I was happy to be in a place she loved.
Another store on our list was one I’d seen on Instagram, but never visited. The Corner Bookstore opened in 1978 (five years before Kitchen Arts and Letters) and it is a true reader’s paradise. This bookstore is smartly curated; every book in the store is the best of what’s available in travel, art, fiction, nonfiction, and biography. It was wonderful to browse in The Corner Bookstore because all of the work (weeding through junk) has been done. I bought a short biography of the artist Bellini and a recently published literary biography of Capri, Pagan Light: Dreams of Freedom and Beauty in Capri.
An added bonus: The Corner Bookstore’s cash register. It caught my eye because of the name on the front:
Made in 1906 by the National Cash Register Company in Dayton, it suits the store perfectly and still works.
As we walked toward our next stop, we were held up by this scene:
They were filming a new HBO series called The Undoing. Based on the novel You Should Have Known by Jean Hanff Korelitz, the series stars Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant. We had a feeling this filming was different than others we’ve walked by in NYC. The extras were standing on the corner, and even they had beautiful clothing and professional make-up. There were two catering stations and lots of people who appeared to be very busy.
Later that evening, we heard E.O. Wilson speak at the 92nd Street Y. The New York Times science writer Claudia Dreifus led a conversation with Wilson about his new book, Genesis: The Deep Origin of Societies.
The conversation focused on Wilson’s work in understanding tribalism, a word we hear a lot today. Wilson said the fundamental force of evolution was the physical growth of our brains. That growth, which allows us to behave and think as we do today, occurred through formation of groups, conflicts, empathy, and most importantly – alliances. Of course, the two-time Pulitzer prize winner, also discussed ants, a subject about which he is the world’s expert.
I am not the best person to write a reliable report on a scientist’s talk, but I enjoyed every minute of listening to Wilson. He was introduced as a “worthy son of Charles Darwin,” and everyone in the room was keenly aware that we were in the presence of greatness.
Back to school on Monday! I have 30 pages left to read of The House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto Urrea. It was a perfect vacation book – the story of a big and complicated Mexican-American family celebrating the last birthday of their patriarch.