Sunday, February 26, 2012

Books at St. Paul the Apostle

Pictures are Worth a Thousand...

Sometimes is it's simple enough to let the photos and pictures speak. I've visited many churches over the years, and the great Catholic churches are cultural and symbolic gold mines. The images and symbols of books are everywhere in churches like these, and St. Paul the Apostle in NYC is no exception. Here we see such things as real books, pictures of books, sculptures of books, and even a few other curious items, including a human mask (apparently a burial mask). The history of this place is quite interesting, specifically related to the Paulist fathers and Isaac Hecker, whom this mask is supposed to represent. As I've looked at elsewhere, it is interesting to note that even inside of a church like this, there is a fairly robust little bookshop, located near the entrance and narthex. Beside this, the imagery of books is everywhere, as can be seen in these other photos. We cannot underestimate the power of the image!

New York Society Library

The Oldest Library in New York City

As I'm catching up on various visits, travels, and reports, I thought I'd only provide minimal commentary on places that had substantive and informative websites, for example. Today's post is about the old library in NYC, the New York Society Library, which the New York Area Theological Library Association (NYATLA) visited on its January excursion. Founded in 1754 the NY Society Library is an extraordinary find in the city's hustle and bustle, and something that is part of its cultural and historical fabric. Now located on Manhattan's upper east side, the library is somewhat tucked away, not far from Central Park and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. We had a fine day, touring with the lovely staff around the library and learning a great deal of its history. Below are images from our meeting and presentations that were giving of the rare collections that day. A coda to this story is that if this weren't enough of a splendid day, on the way home, a colleague and I walked by Woody Allen on the way to the bus. But I'd say that the library was surely more exciting for the group to experience than a momentary flash of the bashful director. Who said books were boring!?

More Books on a NYC Street

One Person's Trash... another person's book! I must say, that it can be surprising what some people throw out. But doesn't really surprise me anymore, considering how many books I've seen tossed over the years. The images I share with you today are from early February, when I was down on 42nd Street, over toward 9th Ave. It was actually a bit farther north, as I'd walked north from 42nd--probably somewhere around 50th. A storefront that had been emptied and posted "for rent" or "lease" had boxes of old books. They weren't great books, but I wouldn't say they were totally trash. I will admit that this time I did NOT take any of the books. But someone might have found them interesting. I wonder how many books are trashed every year? I wonder how many trees it constitutes? It's too bad more of them can't be recycled, as I imagine most of these items end up in regular trash bins. And I'm sure it's simply too expensive to even do that kind of statistical study. For now, we can just speculate and wonder. Keep your eyes open...for another discarded box of books! Though this find didn't yield much, another may--like the various times I've found brand new volumes in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood.

Books at the Guggenheim

In Case You Missed It...

Some books in a nook--a real nook--at the Guggenheim "library" and "reading room." These are tiny spaces toward the top of the incline helix of the main gallery. I went to a curiously fun exhibit a couple months back, which included several interesting culturally interesting characters and images in odd positions. The artist, Maurizio Cattelan, has both a morbid sense of humor, and an artist's eye for the shocking and bizarre. The NYTimes Review can be viewed online. Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of the library and reading room at the Guggenheim is how many people were actually using the small and somewhat hidden space. The role of the art book is really still quite significant, and as these books are fairly costly to produce, there is much to be considered for their present and future value--whether we speak of cost value or cultural value. But people still lined up, and filled the seats of the micro-library and reading room, while Cattelan's waxy pope, JFK, and Hitler hung precariously high from the upper beams of Wright's cinnabon architecture.

Monastery Book Shop

Monastic "Book & Gift Shop"

I've often wondered and speculated about the role of the "book & gift shop" partnership. Somehow, at some level there is a relationship between the "book" and its 'artifactual' colleague, the gift. Of course, a book can be a gift. But the question is whether a "gift" somehow dilutes or enhances the role of the book by being in the same space and having the same relevance or worth. I'm not sure I actually have an answer.
What is clear is that both gifts and books are coveted items, seen as having some axiological importance for people. On a drive a few months back, along some old country roads, I passed by a monastery that I'd visited nearly two decades ago, and decided to stop again. I hadn't been there since the early 1990s, but it brought back memories of meetings and meals with the brothers there. The monastic quarters are located just south of Kingston, NY--and is an Episcopal monastic house, overlooking the river. When I first visited the place, I had a very interesting time--meeting with a diverse group of individuals, both living there and visiting, including some retirees who'd been participating in Elderhostel. I'd shared a dinner one evening, I recall with some of the brothers, who'd spoken to me about their faith and living in the community.

This time, it was a quieter visit. There was only one vehicle around and a couple of folks sitting around reading. I went in briefly and saw that the book shop was closed. So I decided to walk back outside and around a bit, taking in a view of the river nearby, before leaving. I'd promise myself to come back another time.

It may come as surprising that a monastic community would also have a place to sell books, having some external business, but this is nothing new--as in medieval times, monastic communities often served as producers of more than just books, but agricultural and farming commodities. So such was not uncommon at all. And it serves as a good interface with the public. So books or gifts or both... I'd say that if it offers a good connection to the monastic community, then onward!

"Cereal" Libraries?

Extolling the Merits of Libraries:
One Box at a Time

This surely gives a new meaning to "serials" in Libraries. Well, that's not exactly true. But usually, when we speak of "serials" in libraries, it has to do with such things as periodicals, magazines, and journals, for example. But one morning, while I was having breakfast, I discovered that the back of my "cereal" (NOT serial) box had an unusual advertisement (we might even call it an article) about...yes, libraries. There's got to be some story behind this promotional, and whatever it is, I'm glad that promo is there!