Monday, June 25, 2012

   NYPL's Library Way: A Sidewalk Reading Room 
  Sharing the Words of Julia Alvarez, Langston 
  Hughes, William Butler Yeats...

New York is a vertical city. If you walk with your head down or your eyes glued to your cell phone texting you will miss the New York experience of sleek skyscrapers, glass apartment towers, old historical buildings and the classic beauty of its prewar and turn-of-the century architecture.

Many of its most famous landmarks soar high above its streets. This is the city where King Kong swatted away planes as he clung to Fay Wray at the top of the Empire State Building and where Superman was able to “leap tall buildings in a single bound.”

New York has more to offer than just its most famous building the Empire State Building. There is the Art Deco Chrysler Building, 1046 feet tall, adorned with eagle gargoyles and topped with a glittery steel spire. There is also the Gothic cathedral-style 57-story Woolworth building and Frank Gehry’s 90-story 8 Spruce Street, with its wrinkled steel finish, the tallest occupied residential tower in the country.

East 41st Street between Park and Fifth Avenues is different. In this two block stretch known as Library Way you must look down when you walk. If you fail to do so, you will skip over memorable literary quotes from the world’s great writers, poets, philosophers, scientists and statesmen.

Library Way, affiliated with the New York Public Library’s main building at 42nd and Fifth Avenue, contains 96 bronze panels featuring 45 renowned figures from literature, science and philosophy.

Samuel Beckett

While many are well known, there are several I knew very little or nothing about. But I enjoyed reading their quotes. Some were brilliant, funny and stimulating. The intricately designed panels captured Library Way’s unique intellectual aura. The two hours I spent on Library Way got me thinking and wondering who are these people. Why are they here? I agree with the maintenance man (see previous article) from a building on Library Way who said, “These people are important. They are here for a reason.” I agree.
I read up on all 45 names. I share with you what I learned.  I am also including a few of my favorites 
to this list.

Julia Alvarez - Dominican-American novelist/poet, born in New York City in 1950 and lived in the Dominican Republic until age 10 when her family left due to island’s military dictatorship. Noted works: How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, In the Time of Butterflies and A Wedding in Haiti.
George Braque - 1882-1963; Painter/sculptor from Le Harve, France. He pioneered Cubism with Picasso. Famous Paintings: The Mauve Tablecloth; The Gueridon.

Gwendolyn Brooks -1917-2000; Born in Topeka, Kansas poet, she was the first African-American to win a Pulitzer Prize. Brooks received it for poetry in 1950 for Annie Allen.  Also wrote: A Street in Bronzeville.
Albert Camus - 1913-1960; Writer, journalist and Existentialist philosopher was born in French Algeria and became the first African Nobel prize recipient. Won for Literature in 1957. Noted Works: The Stranger, The Plague and The Fall.

Isak Dinesen

Kate Chopin - 1850-1904; Short-story writer/novelist was born Katherine O’Flaherty in St. Louis. She wrote about women’s search for self-identity and independence. Famous work: The Awakening

Gu Cheng - 1956-1993, born Beijing. Poet, essayist, novelist. A member of China’s Misty Poets. Exiled after Tiananmen Square protests. He had a troubled life. He killed his wife and later committed suicide. Among his works: Sea of Dreams.
Lucille Clifton - 1936-2010; African-American poet, children’s author/educator from Buffalo, N.Y. who received the National Book Award for Poetry in 2000 for Blessing The Boats: New and Collected Poems 1988 - 2000.

Isak Dinesen - 1885-1962; Novelist/short storywriter was born Karen von Blixen-Finecke in Denmark. Noted works: Out of Africa and Babette’s Feast.
Richard Eberhart - 1904-2005; He was in born Minnesota. Received 1966 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for Selected Poems from 1930-65 and the 1977 National Book Award for Selected Poems 1930 -1977.

Bohumil Hrabal -1914-1997; He was born in Austro-Hungary. Along with Milan Kundera he was one of the most significant Czech writers. Wrote about human conflict. His work Closely Watered Train, was made into movie of the same name, won 1967 Oscar for Foreign Film.

Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes - 1902-1967; A Poet, playwright, journalist from Joplin MO who became an important figure in the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920’s. Famous works: The Way of White Folks, The Best of Simple and Let America Be America Again.
Garson Kanin - 1912-1999; Writer/director for film/theater born in Rochester N.Y. Wrote the play Born Yesterday and directed the Diary of Anne Frank and Funny Girl on Broadway.

Alfred Kazin - 1915-1998;  Born Brooklyn, NY. He  became part of New York Intellectual movement. A writer and literary critic he wrote about the Jewish immigrant experience. Famous works: On Native Grounds and A Walker in the City.

Jerome Lawrence - 1915-2004 born Jerome Schwartz in Cleveland, Ohio;
Robert Edwin Lee - 1918-1994, born Elyria, Ohio. Playwrights who collaborated to write Inherit The Wind, The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail and Auntie Mame and later adapted it to become the 1956 Tony winning musical Mame.

Jose Marti

Jose Marti - 1853-1895;  Cuban national and literary hero born in Havanna. A poet, essayist, 
journalist became a leader of Cuba’s independence from Spain. Exiled by Spain. Famous 
work: Free Verses.

Marianne Moore
Marianne Moore - 1889-1972; Born Kirkwood, MO and wrote Poetry. Awarded the National Book Award in 1952 for Collected Poems.
Richard Pinsky - born 1940 in Long Branch, N.J. he was a Pulitzer Prize Poet nominee in1996; awarded the 1988 National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry and the World. Wrote the libretto for the opera Death and the Powers.

Muriel Rukeyser - 1913-1980; A poet, political activist was born in New York City. She wrote about race, class and social injustice. The Book of the Dead and The Life of Poetry.
John Ruskin - 1819-1900; A writer, art critic, philanthropist was born in London. Wrote essays, treatises, letters, poetry and travel guides. Works: Modern Painters (5 vols) and The Seven Lamps of Architecture.

Tom Stoppard - born 1937 in Czechoslovakia; His family moved to England after WWII. A playwright who was knighted in 1997 he received Tony Awards for best plays: 1968 - Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead; 1984 - The Real Thing; 2007 - The Coast of Utopia.
William Styron -1925-2006 ; Novelist and essayist who was born in Newport News, Virginia. He received the 1960 Pulitzer in Literature for The Confessions of Nat Turner & the National Book Award in 1980 Sophie’s Choice.

Dylan Thomas

Dylan Thomas - 1914-1953; He was born in Swansea, South Wales. A poet-writer popularized poetry in America with flamboyant and dramatic reading tours. Noted Works: 18 Poems, & Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night, and Entrances. Lived at the Chelsea Hotel and drank at the White Horse Tavern in the West Village. Died nearby at St. Vincent’s Hospital.
E.B. White – 1899-1985; He was born in Mt. Vernon, N.Y. and wrote for The New Yorker. He was a co-author The Elements of Style and wrote the children’s book Charlotte’s Webb. Received an honorary Pulitzer in 1978.

William Carlos Williams - 1883-1963; Poet and pediatrician was born in Rutherford N.J..
He received the National Book Award for Poetry in 1949; posthumously received the Pulitzer Prize in 1963 for Pictures from Brueghel & Other Poems. Other noted works:  Spring and AllThe Red Wheelbarrow, and Patterson. 

Marcus Aurelius Antoninus                                Julia Alvarez      
Francis Bacon                Samuel Beckett            Jose Luis Borges         
George Braque              Gwendoyln Brooks      Albert Camus            
Lewis Carroll                 Willa Cather                 Kate Chopin              
Gu Cheng                       Lucille Clifton              Rene Descartes           
Emily Dickinson            Isak Dinesen                 Richard Eberhart        
Ernest Hemingway        Bohumil Hrabai            Langston Hughes        
Thomas Jefferson           Garson Kanin               Alfred Kazin               
Jerome Lawrence           Robert Edwin Lee        Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Jose Marti                       John Milton                  Marianne Moore
Richard Pinsky               Pablo Picasso               Muriel Rukeyser
John Ruskin                   Gertrude Stein              Wallace Stevens
Tom Stoppard                William Styron             Dylan Thomas
Henry David Thoreau    Mark Twain                  E.B. White
William Carlos Williams                                      John Greenlead Whittier
Virginia Woolf                                                     William Butler Yeats
Photos by Rudi Papiri  *You may enlarge an image by clicking on it