My wife and I spent a lovely few days in Sunny Manhattan last week in celebration of a recent anniversary. We stayed in the venerable Hotel Chelsea, where we were lucky enough to get a brief visit to room 629, the former residence of the artist Vali Myers. The current resident, photographer Tony Notarberardino was hosting a party later, and the theatrical currents outside of his door, accompanied by ethereal music, attracted us to peer in as we were looking around the hotel. Tony graciously invited us for a brief peek before his party, and the rooms are simply otherworldy, covered in murals by Myers along with beautiful paintings, furniture, and other sundries. Among other books, he recommended Sherill Tippins’ history of the hotel, Inside the Dream Palace. The short tour was a highlight of our visit.
I wasn’t able to find Tippins’ book at any of the four bookstores I visited in NYC, but I found it at my trusty enormous used bookstore when I got home. I’m enjoying it very much so far—it’s really almost like a history of 20th c. modernism focused around one locale. I’m not quite halfway through, around the early 1960s, in a chapter focusing on Harry Smith (he of the Anthology of American Folk Music, and many other things), who was a one-time resident of the Chelsea.
Admittedly, I didn’t scour the history books at The Strand’s main store too closely, spending most of my time browsing fiction. I ended up with László Krasznahorkai’s Spadework for a Palace (trans. by John Batki) and a hardback copy of Joy Williams’ Harrow. Harrow was one of my favorite books of last year. I listened to the audiobook twice and have had an eye out for a physical copy since then. Something I wrote on it in a 2022 round up:
Williams takes the “post-apocalyptic” quite literally–Harrow is about post-revelation, an uncovering, a delayed judgment from an idiot savant. It’s one of those books you immediately start again and see that what appeared to be baggy riffing was knotting so tight you couldn’t recognize it the first time through — the appropriate style for a novel that dramatizes Nietzsche’s eternal return as a mediation of preapocalyptic consciousness in a post-apocalyptic world.