Friday, April 11, 2014

Lost New York.

I have an unnatural love for bookstores, and I'm sorry, physical bookstores. Amazon for all its vast size and sterling service doesn't count. There's nothing like holding a book before you buy a book and digital doesn't allow that.

Today, one of New York's last great bookstores, Rizzoli's, is closing, its building being demolished, probably to make way for another luxury condo for a passel of Russian billionaires.

Rizolli's was a throw-back. Wood-paneled. Quiet, usually with soft classical music playing. And it was chock-full of hardcovers--three floors worth--that were more erudite than turgid. They also sold CDs, art books, and had an international magazine stand that meant you could find almost any great magazine on any given day.

Located on 57th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues, I guess the store was doomed. This is an area of New York that has been so rich-i-fied that it can support nothing but the aforementioned billionaire Russian condos, high-end clothing stores, and somehow, Korean nail salons.

I was in Rizolli's two months ago and bought three or four pretty good books. One on the history of Venice, Italy, another lavishly illustrated book on the history of the movies. The later was marked down from $30 to $14.95, and if it hadn't been so heavy, I would have bought two. Just to have them.

As I walk through New York, I do so with some remorse. I remember when bookstores in midtown was not an oxymoron. There was Coliseum, cavernous, across from the New York Coliseum. There was Doubleday's on Fifth Avenue and 54th Street. There was the gilded and holy sanctuary of Scribner's at 597 Fifth. It's now a Sephora cosmetics store. Finally, at least in my memory, there was Gotham on 47th between Fifth and Sixth.

Before advertising agencies moved to low-rent districts, these were places you could pick up a book and find some inspiration. Or, if you were early for an appointment, you could pop in for an hour and find some joy.

I suppose there are those who can accomplish that browsing mascaras or getting a manny.

But for me, another pillar of New York has crumbled.

It makes me sad.

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