By Isa Covo
When we moved to the Village over thirty years ago there were several bookstores in the area, some small and intimate, a few large. There was a largish bookstore just around the corner from where I live, where I bought my first book by Kazuo Ishiguro, (which was his first book also), A Pale View of the Hills. The place is now a bar. The former site of Barnes & Noble, at the corner of West 8th Street and Sixth Avenue, has been empty for many years. A small (more recent) but lively store on Bleecker Street near Cornelia Street has also closed, and Bookmarc, owned by Marc Jacobs is not really a bookstore, but a trendy shop with some coffee table books. It has replaced a lovely and welcoming one called Biography, whose owners opened another store with the whimsical name Bookbook, but that has also closed. The Oscar Wilde Bookshop on Christopher Street has been gone for over ten years.
Still, there are places around where one can linger and leaf through the stacks. Of course, everybody goes to Barnes and Noble on Union Square, and the very famous and interesting Strand Bookstore on Broadway. However, there are jewels remaining in the West Village and here are three of them, different from each other but all worth a visit.
Unoppressive Non-Imperialist Bargain Books (34 Carmine Street) has been at this location for twenty-five years. It is not very large, but one is amazed by the choice and variety of the titles and genres it contains. Almost all the books have bargain prices, and almost all reflect the owner’s eclectic taste. Whatever are one’s interests, one is sure to find books that match them. I had been looking for E. B. White’s Here is New York for a long time, and there it was. Not only is the bookstore interesting, its owner Jim Drougas and salesman Joseph are interesting as well. Jim wears his hair long and grey under a cowboy hat. Joseph’s hair (topped with a stocking hat) and beard are also grey, and his face is weathered. Both men are very relaxed and pleasant to talk to. Absolutely recommended.
Three Lives & Company (154 W. 10 Street) is another independent very popular bookstore. It was founded in 1968 by three women—hence its name. It is the oldest bookstore remaining in the same location in this area. It has a cozy old-fashioned look with an excellent selection of books, some of which are not often found in other stores. My latest purchase was a book of Japanese prints collected by Van Gogh; I was thrilled. The venue also hosts periodic events and readings worth attending. (No picture-taking allowed, as per a staffer.)
Left Bank Books (41 Perry Street) is a tiny store with a selection of rare, mostly art, books. It opened just four months ago, but already it seems to have found a niche in the neighborhood. The hosts are young, very charming, and ready to help and explain their selection. I saw a marvelous pop-up children’s book by Gorey that I did not even know existed, and some very tempting photography books.
We should patronize our independent stores and stick to the brick-and-mortar lest they disappear and are replaced with unexciting venues, if they are replaced at all. It is disheartening to see all those empty, at times decrepit, storefronts. Those of us who share this neighborhood should make a serious effort to maintain it as the vibrant, creative, and cultural place that attracted us here in the first place. Another advantage is that by not ordering online you avoid the packaging that I see accumulating daily with the garbage, which is sometimes bulkier than the household scraps.
Orange Walnut Raisin Oatmeal Cookies
By Isa Covo
When these cookies are baking, the whole kitchen, and even the house, fills with wonderful aromas. I usually make them on Hallowe’en for trick or treaters and they have almost become a tradition. Check the oven temperature as these cookies should remain a little soft.
- 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, sifted
- 1 to 1¼ cups granulated sugar
- 2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 rounded teaspoon grated nutmeg
- 1 rounded teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon pure orange extract (optional)
- 1 cup mild vegetable oil, preferably safflower, canola, or grapeseed
- 2 eggs beaten
- juice and rind from one large orange
- 2 ½ cups quick cooking rolled oats
- ½ cup rolled oats
- ¾ cup chopped walnuts
- ¾ cup dark raisins
In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves. In another bowl, beat the eggs, add the oil, the orange juice and rind, and mix very well. Add the extracts and blend well.
Add the second mixture to the first one in the large bowl and beat until very smooth.
Mix the rolled, quick cooking oats, raisins and walnuts and fold them into the mixture in the large bowl.
Heat the oven to 375 degrees and drop the batter by tablespoonfuls about one inch apart onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
Bake in the middle of the oven from 12 to 15 minutes, or until the cookies begin to color on the edges. Turn the baking tray around halfway through baking.
Cool on racks and proceed in the same way with the rest of the batter.
Yield: About five dozen cookies.
Note: the recipe can be halved.