Art Nerd City Guides: New York · Los Angeles

Gotham Book Mart

GBM_2

Marcel Duchamp’s window display titled ‘Lazy Hardware’. 1945

Lit Nerd Wednesday!

Oh the plight of the independent bookstore and it’s increasingly likelihood of extinction — like many towns and cities across the country New York City can’t escape this sad trend. It’s hard to believe that around the corner from The Strand and Alabaster bookstores were eight other independent shops — Arcadia, Anchor, Green, Corner and Schultes — the famous Book Row. One legendary store was the Gotham Book Mart in Midtown at 16 East 46th Street — in many ways New York City’s version of Paris’ Shakespeare & Company where aspiring and already famous writers would meet and discuss their craft.

Founded in 1920 by Fracnes Steloff, it began as a basement level shop in the Theatre District and soon became a safe haven for avant-garde and often banned books like Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer and Lady Chatterly’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence. Some of the artists and writers who frequently visited were Marcel Duchamp, W.H. Auden, Dylan Thomas, Susan Sontag, Gertrude Stein, Gore Vidal and Marianne Moore. In 1947 the James Joyce Society was founded here with T.S. Eliot as its first member and at one point Tennessee Williams worked as a clerk for a day.

Although Steloff sold the bookstore in 1967 she still lived above it and frequently made appearances as a consultant — she died in 1989 at age 101. Gotham Book Mart had the worst luck when it came to locations — the store moved three times until finally settling at its’ 46th Street location in 2004. It closed in 2007 and 200,000 of its holdings were donated to the University of Pennsylvania.

What: Gotham Book Mart (fallen)

Where: 16 East 46th Street

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