Monday, January 07, 2008

East Coast Observations Flatiron Building

We just got back from a week in New York City (well, really New Jersey) and Washington D.C.

A few observations:

The Flatiron Building on Broadway and 22nd has been refurbished and it looks fantastic. Too bad I can’t say the same for the inside. I went to visit my editor at St. Martin’s Press. I got into a beautiful gilt, mirrored elevator and it made me feel like I was stepping back into another era. That fantasy was erased every time the elevator doors opened. The hallways are lit with fluorescent lights and the floors are covered with linoleum! Aren’t publishing offices supposed to be cathedrals to books? I guess not. (The individual offices are actually nice.)

It’s hard to find a good bookstore in Bergen County, New Jersey, but there are libraries everywhere. The county is made up of dozens of small towns, each with their own city halls, police departments, fire departments, etc. That’s an expensive way to run a community but the upside is that there is a nice library every few miles.

Politics and Prose Bookstore in Washington D.C. is every bit as good as its reputation. I had to restrain myself from buying too many books. (I just had to have Geraldine Brook's new novel, People of the Book.) The staff is knowledgeable. One of the staff members, Barbara, blogs about the books she likes. (She just read Berkeley author Beth Lisick’s new book, Helping Me Help Myself.) The store’s events calendar reflects the area’s intense interest in politics.

Living in Berkeley means I never get to hear a conservative. But they are all over Washington D.C. I went to Starbucks one morning and eavesdropped on a quartet sitting at a nearby table. I first noticed them because their conversation seemed so interesting. I soon realized they were arch conservatives – but I still found their conversation interesting. One woman praised Clarence Thomas’ autobiography and then asked in all candor how everyone could have been snookered by Anita Hill. They went on to praise the war in Iraq and kevelled about George W. Bush.

The International Spy Museum in Washington is a lot of fun.

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