I’ve got a lot of stuff going on right now. So I’ll be taking a break from the blog for a few days. See you soon.
For nearly half a century, Elaine Kaufman ran a restaurant in New York City that was a haven and a clubhouse for writers of all hues -- brand names, up-and-comers, wannabes, and unknowns, the gregarious and the lonely, the elegant and the scruffy, the prolific and the blocked. The one thing they shared, other than thirst, was the desire to get out of their own skulls and into an interesting conversation. At Elaine's, with remarkable regularity, they succeeded. They found not only fellow writers, but cops, actors, gangsters, comedians, tourists, celebrities, and colorful nobodies. A young New York Times reporter named Gay Talese started going there in 1964, when the place was in its infancy. Here's how he described its allure in 1993, on the occasion of its 30th birthday: "Among other things, Elaine's is a therapy center, a halfway house for husbands between wives, a late-night talk show without cameras and microphones or commercial interruptions, a place that caters to the nocturnal needs and nourishments of New Yorkers who, as evening approaches, are not sure with whom they wish to dine, or with whom they wish to sleep after they dine, or even if they wish to sleep." The glue that held it all together was Elaine herself, an outsize personality with a sharp tongue and a sharper wit, who was usually installed opposite the bar at Table 4, dressed in her trademark round eyeglasses and flowing dresses. She was a magnet, a matchmaker, a traffic cop, a den mother, and, yes, an unlicensed head shrinker. She died on Dec. 3, 2010 at age 81, and less than six months later the restaurant, starved of the oxygen of her personality, closed. By then it had become apparent that there would never be another Elaine's -- or another Elaine. "What we liked and enjoyed about the place for more than 40 years was that it's not replaceable," Talese told me recently. "In New York you feel everything's replaceable. The reason Elaine's is irreplaceable is that when Elaine died there was no one who could make you feel that there's no place else you'd rather be. An empty place has existed in our hearts since the place closed." Several Elaine's regulars, part of the diaspora of the dismayed and bereft, started discussing ways to repay Elaine for all the encouragement she gave to writers and other creative people. They decided to form The Table 4 Writers Foundation, which has just announced that it is giving out its first batch of $2,000 grants to writers who live in New York City. "The grants are for all New York writers, not just young and struggling writers," says Jenine Lepera Izzi, a jewelry designer who met her husband at Elaine's, became a close friend of the proprietor, and is now chairwoman of the foundation. "My core belief is that I'd love to wave a wand and bring the Jack Kerouacs back. That creative energy was what New York was built on -- until the 1980s and '90s, before rents and costs got so high -- and it's pretty much been squashed." I was introduced to Elaine's -- and to Elaine -- by Peter Khoury. He and I wrote for the same North Carolina newspaper in the 1990s before moving, separately, to New York. Khoury, now the night metro editor at The Times, became a regular at Elaine's and, eventually, a close friend of Elaine. One night, as he and I walked into the restaurant together, Khoury received a hearty ovation from the crowd-- because the Times's metro desk had just broken the story that New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer had a taste for high-dollar prostitutes. It was the only time in my life I've heard people applaud a journalist. No wonder Khoury -- and so many other writers -- liked going to Elaine's. "We're trying to get the word about the grants out at places where writers congregate -- writers' rooms, libraries, bookstores," says Khoury, who sits on the Table 4 Writers Foundation board of directors and has published several short stories in literary journals. "Elaine was a force of nature, a large, large personality. She instinctively knew if you needed a hug, a Heineken, or a kick in the heinie. We can't replace her, but through the grants we can give New York writers a little recognition, a little leg up. It's a way to celebrate and remember her." The foundation plans to award five $2,000 grants to New York writers, age 21 and up, at a gala in February of 2013. Entries, fiction or non-fiction, must be post-marked by Oct. 15, 2012. Image Credit: Wikipedia
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Today, we are officially adding a new regular contributor to The Millions. Those of you who have been reading The Millions for the last several months will be familiar with Sonya's writing (collected here). Particularly recommended are Sonya's essay on the complications of choosing a book cover design for her forthcoming novel and her clever piece about flirting with books. Her bio:Sonya Chung is the author of Long for This World, which will be released by Scribner in March 2010. She is currently at work on a second novel, Sebastian & Frederick. You can learn more about Sonya and her work at www.sonyachung.com.Welcome Sonya!
We have some exciting news today. I've long pined for the perfect url for The Millions and now we finally have it. From now on, The Millions will reside at www.themillions.com.Long-time readers will know that this is in fact the fourth address that the site has had over the years, but I can assure you that themillions.com will be the last. I think the name befits a site that has long outgrown its "blogspot" roots. Plus, it's very easy to remember.While links to themillionsblog.com will redirect to their themillions.com counterparts indefinitely, we encourage you to update your bookmarks and any links you may have that point to The Millions. We believe that the move has gone smoothly, but if you see anything awry, please let us know. Thanks for your support!Update: No update to your RSS feed subscriptions necessary. RSS subscribers will continue to receive our posts.
As previously discussed, I'm moving to Philadelphia this week, and then Mrs. Millions and I are heading to a wedding in LA, so don't expect to hear much from me until about a week from now. However, I will be putting up any posts I get from contributors, so stay tuned.Also, recommendations on fun Philly stuff are still welcomed in the comments of the post linked above.
Though Garth made his first appearance yesterday with his post about the Illustrated Pynchon, I'd like to formally welcome him aboard. I've known Garth for a long time - at least a dozen years, I think - and we've always talked about books, so I'm glad he decided to join us. He'll have other reviews and dispatches up soon. Let the hazing commence.
Please see our updated itineraryOne of the supreme pleasures of reading is the way adventures begun on the page - or on the screen - take on a life of their own. Since posting our revised and expanded "Walking Tour of New York's Independent Bookstores" last week, we've been overwhelmed by great feedback. Now, the siren call of an afternoon of leisurely urban hiking having proven too enticing to resist, we've decided to make our hypothetical tour a reality. This May, we're going to convene the First Annual Millions Walking Tour of New York's Independent Book Stores. Notwithstanding the tough environment facing indies, we'll get a chance to celebrate some of New York's best, to explore what keeps them vital - and to hang out with fellow readers.The details:Time and date: Saturday, May 2nd, 11am (rain date Sunday May 3rd, 11am).Itinerary:While our online tour features 11 stops, for our first attempt in person, we've decided to shorten it to a more manageable six stops (and an approximate total distance of 4.5 miles).At 11am, we'll meet at Three Lives (154 West 10th Street at Waverly Place)From there we'll venture to Housing Works Used Book Cafe (126 Crosby St. between Prince and Houston), where we'll try to snag some sort of coffee and snack special for those who like to nosh while they browse.Then it's around the corner to McNally Jackson (52 Prince St. between Mulberry and Lafayette).Then a few blocks to Bluestockings (172 Allen Street between Stanton and Rivington)The next leg, taking us over the bridge to Brooklyn and to BookCourt (163 Court St. between Pacific and Dean) will be by far the longest (about 3 miles).And we'll wrap things up at Freebird Books & Goods (123 Columbia St. between Kane & Degraw), which will host a little backyard party with beer and refreshments.With about a half hour at each stop, we anticipate that the whole tour will take three or four hours. We hope that you will join us. Anyone can just show up and come along, but if you RSVP to [email protected], we'll be able to alert you if we need to postpone due to weather. The whole thing is going to be informal - no tour bus, no red umbrella - and if you want to try to catch up with us partway through, you are welcome to, but the only way to be sure to be with the group is to show up at Three Lives at 11am.Garth and Max will be leading the jaunt and we'll likely be joined by one or two other Millions regulars. Please join us! If all goes well, perhaps we'll reassemble in 2010 for another tour, focusing on the uptown venues we'll be neglecting this time around.