Like so many New Yorkers, I discovered Greenwich Village and its outpost the East Village from another borough, but it didn't take me long. I was 14.
Now hidden in a low laying mountain retreat, I miss those places as much as I miss the sun, hidden under the haze, blighted by perpetual snowfall and often by early morning fog. Darkness prevails and so do my choices.
Today what I miss is 8th Street, and in particular, the St. Mark's (8th Street Bookstore). Then it was small, now it has moved to a larger space but still carries the cachet of beat.
It carried me into books, pamphlets and journals not seen or known outside of the narrow shop between 2nd & 3rd Avenue. In the middle section of the store were twirling wire shelves. It was on those shelves you might discover anyone or someone. Someone like Ginsburg in mimeograph form, or a tattered but new copy of "On the Road."
Now, with yet the promise of another white out, I realize that since leaving New York in 2006, and after my one year sojourn in Taos,and a brief but delicious Guilford summer, I haven't seen N+1, or McSweeney's or the Paris Review in the Upper Delaware community. I got a copy of the Review brought to me, but to me...there is nothing like feeling the crisp pages in my own hands and deciding where and how to plunk down those greens for a good read, or just a trendy one.
All this nostalgia emanates from a review of "MFA vs. NYC: The Two Cultures," in the New York Times.
I don't think I can weigh in on either side of the debate. An MFA leads one; NYC can also be a town that leads one, or permits one to decide on a course. In the MFA program(s), you may learn of a new technique and certainly be exposed to new writers. In NYC, you may discover these on your own. But if booksellers continue to decline, those possibilities diminish.
Yet, with both MFAs flourishing, and the City changing, perhaps they are mirrors and not nearly as different. Perhaps!