This week’s Spotlight on Bookstores is written by Nancy Bachrach, author of the brave, flippant, and brutally honest memoir The Center of the Universe, which I reviewed here. As evidenced by the strong writing in her first book and in this essay, she is an author to watch! Lenny Golay and Ray Sherman are doing wonders to support local authors; how I’d love to have been a fly on the wall at Bachrach’s party at The Corner Bookstore!
If you collect books the way others amass art or jewelry, then maybe you’ve dreamed of running a neighborhood bookstore. Better yet, imagine living above your bookstore, so you can sneak downstairs at night and browse through the latest acquisitions, taking the best of them back upstairs to bed. The Corner Bookstore in Manhattan is home to “Lenny” Golay and Ray Sherman, and it must be better than living above a candy store.
Located on Madison Avenue on the upper east side of Manhattan, the Corner Bookstore is a small treasure in a historic neighborhood famous for its elegant townhouses. The bookstore’s tin ceiling and speckled terrazzo floor date from the 1920s, along with the handcrafted wood cabinets. Every detail has been lovingly restored by Ray, an architectural model maker. (photo: The Corner Bookstore; 1313 Madison Avenue at 93rd)
This is a bookstore with a mission: to support the debuts of local writers. Lenny selects the authors months in advance of their books’ publication and throws a party on the evening the book is released. The celebration includes a reading, signing and discussion with friends, editors, publicists and journalists. Given the bookstore’s location – in a famous literary community, just around the corner from New York’s renowned “92nd Street Y” - Lenny has launched more than a few of the greats.
The Corner Bookstore is where Donna Tartt unveiled The Secret History. Jhumpa Lahiri launched Interpreter of Maladies. Lenny threw the book parties for Augusten Burroughs’ Running With Scissors and Jeanette Walls’ The Glass Castle. Lauren Weisberger gave her first reading from The Devil Wears Prada. Every one of these authors was invited long before their book reviews (or movie deals) – so either Lenny is clairvoyant, or she’s a genuine taste-maker. (photo: The best-read cat in Manhattan)
Lenny and Ray’s most memorable party was the dazzling debut for Frank McCourt, who had been teaching in the New York school system for thirty years before he turned his miserable Irish childhood into Angela’s Ashes, the bestseller that kick-started the memoir genre. The Corner Bookstore was so crowded that night that friends who couldn’t squeeze in gathered on the sidewalk, where Lenny and her staff served Guinness. “New York’s Finest,” our police, ignored the infringement and applauded the fun. Frank’s brother Malachy sang Irish folk songs to the revelers; and two years later, he was back in the bookstore with his own memoir, A Monk Swimming.
My own party at the Corner Bookstore happened this past May, when Lenny celebrated my debut memoir, The Center of the Universe. It was a thrill to be introduced by Lenny in her gem of a bookstore, surrounded by my friends and family…and the ghosts of some literary greats. (photo: Lenny Golay – owner, Nancy Bachrach – author, Nick Chase – office manager of The Corner Bookstore)
If you get to New York, go for a visit. And please tell Lenny I sent you!