Readersforum's Blog

January 5, 2013

A Critic’s Tour of Literary Manhattan

Clockwise from left: KGB Bar, the Strand, Nuyorican Poets Cafe, Library Hotel, NoMad Hotel, Algonquin hotel, Café Loup.

Clockwise from left: KGB Bar, the Strand, Nuyorican Poets Cafe, Library Hotel, NoMad Hotel, Algonquin hotel, Café Loup.

By DWIGHT GARNER

A FEW years ago, the novelist Gary Shteyngart, whose books are very funny and very sad, gave an interview to a magazine called Modern Drunkard. (Yes, this magazine actually exists.) It’s the funniest and saddest interview I’ve ever read.

In it, Mr. Shteyngart lamented what’s happened to bookish night life in New York City over the past decade. “There are so few people to drink with,” he said. “The literary community is not backing me up here. I’m all alone.” Mr. Shteyngart, who was born in Russia, added: “It’s pathetic when I think about my ancestors. Give them a bottle of shampoo and they have a party.”

Is Manhattan’s literary night life, along with its literary infrastructure (certain bars, hotels, restaurants and bookstores) fading away? Not long ago I installed myself at the Algonquin, the Midtown hotel where Dorothy Parker, Alexander Woollcott and others once traded juniper-infused barbs, and used it as a launching pad to crisscross the island for a few days, looking to see what’s left.

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