No walking today, literature instead. The New York City Public Library offered a lecture about Edith Wharton this afternoon at 2:15pm, so there was not much room to put something before or after it.
A lot of people joined the lecture. Mostly elderly people. People my age who are interested in literature are very likely to be working at that time. For two hours the knowledgeable speaker took us through Edith Wharton’s life and her work related to her life. She was a remarkable woman and one of the most important American writers at her time. She wrote 23 novels, countless short stories, poems and as well nonfiction about home decoration and gardening. Her novels and stories were based in the society of her time and used to give a critical view. She had been born into a well situated family in New York but grew up unhappily. Her mother’s only interest was to marry her off well while she herself was seeking an intellectual environment. She used to look sad on photographs. The first one she is smiling on was taken in her mid-forties, when she had become the successful writer she always wanted to be.
I only read some of her short stories so far but will definitely read some of her novels now. Her first bestseller was “The House of Mirth”, for “Age of Innocence” she won the Pulitzer Prize.
For tonight’s Bookend event I had to make a decision between two that seemed interesting. I discussed them with Priya in the morning and she recommended to go to a poetry reading as a launch event for a literary magazine called “Lapham’s Quarterly”. Priya described Mr. Lapham as a character in the literary scene and if I had the chance to meet him I should take it. I followed her advice and took an F train to Park Slope in the evening, where the event should take place in the Community Bookstore. But there was no Book festival organizer in a bright orange T-Shirt, nor were there any chairs. Nothing was going on in the bookstore. Just people browsing books. It was a mistake in the program. That event will take place tomorrow.
Luckily the other one, a short story reading was taking place in Park Slope as well, in the Old Stone House, some blocks away and starting half an hour later. So I walked over there and listened to short stories by five unknown (to me) American authors who were present and read themselves. Writers here have so much more opportunities to publish their work. The number of literary magazines publishing short stories is enormous. And many famous authors started like that. Why don’t we have these literary magazines in Germany?
I had to think how to get back home then. With this part of Park Slope, west of 5th Avenue, I was not so familiar with. I could have walked back to the F station I had arrived at but that was quite far from where I was now. Walking to the 2/3 was not really close and would mean quite a long walk home. There might have been a bus but they don’t run frequently at night. So I decided to walk home, zigzagging northwest. When I found myself in the more or less deserted industrial zone of Gowanus, close to the canal, where I had not found the charm on Saturday afternoon, I realized that this had not been my best idea. There were not much cars coming along and not much people were walking around. I felt uncomfortable. And if I had used my brain I should have known that. Walking straight north on well-lit 4th Avenue and then straight west on cozy Dean Street would not have been farther but would have felt much safer. Nothing happened to me, I and my bag got home safe, but I learned my lesson. There are areas I should just avoid at night.
When I looked on my map at home I realized that I could have easily caught an F train on 4th Avenue just a couple of blocks south of the Old Stone House, that would have brought me to my regular stop on Bergen Street. And I could even have picked up a good night beer at a bodega on Smith Street.