The Albertine Prize: Proving Literature Matters

Last week, I received an invitation to attend the cocktail reception and ceremony for the inaugural Albertine Prize. This marked my first attendance at a literary award event. You might say that I was excited.

I’ve described the refined, serene, and daresay magical qualities of Albertine in a past post. I’ll not bore anyone with a refrain. If you love books and literature, do yourself a favor and visit Albertine.

The Albertine Prize was awarded to the “best” translated work of contemporary French literature. Hoping to generate interest in the award and French literature, Albertine compiled a shortlist of books and posed the question to readers: which is the best book? Through a series of online voting, Bardo or Not Bardo by novelist Antoine Volodine was selected as the winner. Both Voldoine and his translator J. T. Mahany received awards at the event.

Albertine Winners
J. T. Mahany and Antoine Volodine, winners of the first Albertine Prize (Courtesy of Albertine).

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Ghost Stories for Christmas

While browsing for a Christmas present for my wife at a local independent bookstore (Little City Books in Hoboken, New Jersey, which deserves its own review), I happened upon a counter display of tiny books published by Biblioasis, a small, independent publishing house in Windsor, Ontario, Canada.

The books belong to the Christmas Ghost Stories series with titles by Edith Wharton, Charles Dickens, M.R. James, and other authors. Each pocket-sized book includes cover art and illustrations by Seth (Gregory Gallant), the cartoonist behind Palookaville. I picked up one of the exquisitely-designed volumes. While leafing through the stitched–yes, stitched, not glued–pages, I marveled at the quality of the paper stock and the heft of the publication. This felt like … well, a true book. A valuable object unto itself.

(Photograph by author)

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Autumn and October at Albertine Books

The autumn is the season befitting deep thoughts and reflections, strolling through a neighborhood park fragrant with fallen leaves, and watching the nighttime sky on a quiet beach. Rainy and chilly days are perfect for patronizing museums, theaters, historic homes, and bookstores. The autumn awakens the mind and the imagination.

A few months ago, I recounted my first visit to Albertine Books, a splendid bookshop with an inspiring interior, and I encouraged all my readers to visit this cultural gem. If one needs further convincing to travel to the Upper East Side of Manhattan, Albertine has assembled a wonderful literary program for the month of October.

Currier & Ives, American Homestead Autumn, 1868-1869 (Courtesy of the Brooklyn Museum).

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Albertine Books : a Sanctuary for the Mind and the Soul

Nestled inside the historic Payne Whitney mansion, a building designed by the legendary Stanford White, on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan’s posh Upper East Side, Albertine Books is a bookseller located within the Cultural Services of the French Embassy. Clearly conceived as a physical medium through which to promote French language, literature, and culture, Albertine offers the flaneur a delightful sanctuary from the (often maddening) bustle and noise of New York and stands as a shrine to words and ideas. While walking together along Museum Mile, my wife, my faithful companion in bookstore lingerings and haunting historic homes, introduced me to Albertine.

A statue of a young boy with missing arms and an archer’s sling  greets visitors at the entrance, politely informing all guests that they are visiting a special place. The statue is a replica of the Young Archer, controversially attributed to Michelangelo himself and now housed at the nearby Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Young Archer
Young Archer (replica), attributed to Michelangelo, Payne Whitney Mansion. Note the doorway to Albertine Books in the background (Photograph by author).

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Independent Bookstore Day! Visit Your Favorite Store!

May 2—today—is Independent Bookstore Day. Visit your favorite bookstore and buy a book or two.  Local bookstores are key to a cultured, vibrant, and rewarding community.

For some local history, check out this great blog post on the legendary and vanished Book Row in Manhattan published by the Museum of the City of New York.

Book Row, Manhattan (Courtesy of Unpacking the Bookstore)
Book Row, Manhattan (Courtesy of Unpacking the Bookstore).

It’s best not to imagine a world without bookstores. Just consult the dearly departed Ray Bradbury.  Please buy a book today.