“Let’s all go down the Strand!”: NYC’s 18-Mile Book Store

Over the weekend, I made the sort of stupid decision that 27-year-olds in general, and I in particular, are famous for making. Despite having exactly no money and exactly one fever, I elected to go to New York City with some friends.

We had a good reason (or so I told myself at the time): there’s a haunted house there called Nightmare NYC, which was created by the editor of Weird Tales Magazine. If you don’t know why that’s significant, then give yourself a pat on the back. You probably have a functional sex life.

Lovecraft

I couldn’t take any pictures inside the house itself. Suffice it to say, the event began with Typhoid Mary grabbing me by the hair and slamming me into a wall and ended with me drinking my first glass of absinthe (well, first two glasses–I had a but-one-get-one coupon) at a bar called Lovecraft. The latter promised to make me feel like a proper writer at last.

“Here I am,” I told myself. “In the middle of the city. Downing libations to the Green Fairy. Hanging out with prostitutes and the rest of society’s outcasts. Truth! Beauty! Love!”

Sadly, the night failed to devolve into an orgy of wanton sensuality. What happened instead was I got very drunk and watched a Syfy original movie in the basement. Still, it was a good time!

Absinthe

But let’s back up a bit.

We had a whole morning and afternoon to kill before any haunted housing could begin. And what better way to spend it than at The Strand Book Store, home of 18 miles of books?

Now, when I first heard of The Strand, I got things somewhat twisted and envisioned an unbroken 18-mile line of book stores lining a beach. Which would have been astounding, since Manhattan’s only 23 miles long. In actual fact, The Strand is one book store with 18 miles of shelves. That’s somewhat less jaw-dropping, but let’s be clear: it’s still stinkin’ immense.

The Strand Book Store

The first of the Strand’s three floors houses new releases and literary standards, while the second is mostly art and fashion books. The third, though–the third is where they keep the rare books.

And when I say rare, I mean “weird and also occasionally creepy.” In the spirit of Halloween, allow me to present some spooky things I found on the Strand’s top floor.

Sleeping Beauty: Memorial Photography in America

Yes, I know this photo makes more prominent display of my reflection than the book itself, but cut me some slack. This book was unreasonably shiny!

It was also unreasonably horrifying. Most people have heard of memorial photography, i.e. taking pictures of dead people because they were the only ones who could sit still long enough to make a crappy old-time photograph. Most people, however, have not endured the questionable pleasure of perusing an entire book of said pictures.

This, in my opinion, was the most unnerving one…

Dead child memorial photo

Eek!

…though there were oh-so-many more to ruin your peace of mind.

I can’t decide if this next book is more or less upsetting. On the one hand, it did contain the single most disgusting caption I’ve ever seen in my life. It’s so vile that I’m not even willing to post it on this blog. Here’s the link, for any of you sickos who can’t contain your curiosity.

On the other hand, it’s silly. Like, really, really silly. If you gave ukiyo-e woodblocks to a heavily self-medicated metal fan, this is what he might come up with.

Violent ukiyo-e

METAL!

Outstanding, am I right?

Anyway, I’m posting this in in the staff room of an elementary school, so I better wrap it up before any looky-loos get too curious.

(And you can tell I work in an elementary school, because I use nauseatingly G-rated terms like looky-loos.)

Until next time!

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