Cathryn's Bizarre, Charming, and Tragic Finds in NY's Beloved Bookstore
By Cathryn Salamone (Actor/Musician)
I found myself around Union Square with a friend on Monday, and, with the skies being pouty grey and threatening rain, it yielded the perfect chance to hit up my favorite waste of time and money in New York: The Strand Bookstore. My relationship with the Strand could be compared to a recovered shoe-monger shopaholic's with Century 21. I try to avoid it at all costs, unless I am able to walk in with $50 in my pocket and the understanding that it will be dropped within the hour on a short stack of tomes.
But my friend Meg was with me, and we had some time to kill, and the weather led itself to the perfect mood for listlessly contemplating the spines of eighteen miles of books. After passing a few hysterically bizarre finds, we decided to comb the bookstore for the most interesting books we could find. Here are a few that peaked our curiosity:
1. I'm Only Here for the WiFi: A Complete Guide to Reluctant Adulthood by Chelsea Fagan
Found: 1st floor, "Humor, Music, Dance" section, left-hand stack
This title seemed to be a self-help book for twenty-somethings recently graduated and facing the windy, harsh highlands of adulthood head-on. It was filled with charts illustrating much of what we all already know, including the one pictured: "The things we're likely to ditch when pressed for time."
2. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll with artwork by Yayoi Kusama
Found: 1st floor, floating kiosk titled "Art Books"
Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, whose work was most recently exhibited in New York at the Whitney in the summer of last year, lends her vision to Carroll's Alice in Wonderland in this edition. Ms. Kusama's characteristic use of dots and vibrant color makes the children's tale even trippier, if possible.
By this point in my journey, I had stumbled upon the espionage section of the Strand. Correct: the Strand has an espionage section, and it's just as cool as you think it is.
3. Hidden Codes & Grand Designs by Pierre Berloquin
Found: THE ESPIONAGE SECTION!, 1st floor, located right after the history stacks
My inner thirteen-year-old was freaking out over this book. It contains the most famous codes and ciphers used in history, dating back all the way to Caesar's time. DaVinci, Henri II of France, and others' codes are showcased and cracked in this fun coffee-table find.
4. Mass-Market Fiction Nightmares by various authors
Found: Basement level, to the right of the staircase, stacked horizontally in a big wooden box.
I'm not going to write much about these - I only urge to to read the titles and laugh hysterically.
5. Choose Your Own Adventure by R.A. Montgomery
Found: 2nd floor, Children's section
I was so excited when I stumbled upon these. An entire shelf was dedicated to this series, which I haven't seen since elementary school. And - be honest - you know you decided to read one of these in consecutive page-number order just to see how weird the story gets. No? Just me?
6. You're All Just Jealous of My Jetpack by Tom Gauld
Found: 2nd floor, Graphic Novels and Comics section
Obviously this collection grabbed my attention because of the title, but after reading it, I was completely charmed. Cartoonist Tom Gauld creates one-page comics that marries the art of brevity and humor in such a delightful way. Several of his comics reference classical literature or higher forms of thought: serving up elbow-jab style jokes that actually made me laugh aloud.
CATHRYN SALAMONE is an actor and singer-songwriter based in New York City. She is a recent graduate of Pace University's BFA Musical Theatre program and co-vocalist of the pop duo Panhandle Poets. Current influences include professional sand castle artists and Fiona & Cake episodes of Adventure Time. www.cathrynsalamone.com
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