Last night Ariel and I went to a launch party for the new online version of Read Russia, a magazine about all things Russian, at Idlewild Books in Union Square. I’d heard about the event through Lauren Cerand’s happening Monday column, The Smart Set, on Maud Newton’s literary blog.
I hadn’t heard of the magazine before, but it looks like a fun, informative read, and just the kind of publication I’d be into, nostalgic Russophile that I am. I say nostalgic because it seems kind of like a zine for Russian expats living here — as well as Americans– but kind of the reverse of the Prague Post and St. Petersburg Times, and all those literary mags founded by members of my generation for Americans living in Eastern Europe in the 90s, right after the fall of Communism. Oh, to be young in the fin de siecle again :S…
And totally fell in love with Idlewild Books. Honestly, best bookstore I think I’ve seen. At least it suits me to a t. They specialize in foreign and “travel books” but I put the latter in quotes because they’re not only the kind of cheesy travel books you’re used to that really might better be called tourist books, but novels, historical accounts, and the like, written by that region’s writers, or insightful visitors, that give you a much richer, deeper sense of the place.
And, unbelievably, they had this back table of heavily discounted books, which I don’t think I’ve ever seen at a small, independent bookstore before! Books I can actually afford I had an armful ready to buy but the cash register was long closed by the time Ariel and I ended our vodka fest (okay, my vodka fest) and got ready to leave.
Yes, they had free flavored vodka, which of course I had to have. Right when I got there, a man had just emptied into his cup the remaining bottle on the table, so a Read Russia editor brought out a new one. But she didn’t open it, and I couldn’t figure out the blasted cap to save my life. A guy must have seen me picking desperately at the thing, then giving up, and embarrased, placing it back down on the table and trying to walk away nonchalantly. He came up, unscrewed it, and without pouring himself a glass, sat the bottle right back down before where I’d been standing and looked at me out of the corner of his eye. How embarrasing.
They also had these delicious Russian candies, but the blasted things were downright elephantine. I unwrapped a cherry-wrapped log thinking it was going to be all squishy and gummy-bear-like so I could tear it apart with my teeth, but no, it was hard candy. I couldn’t bite it apart, so had to put the whole thing in my mouth. It was like the size of a small hot dog — like the kind you use for pigs in blankets! I couldn’t talk without my mouth drooling red syrup, and I kept feeling like I was going to choke, so I nonchalantly wrapped it in a napkin and placed it in an empty, used vodka cup. Apparently it takes practice to be Russian.
At the end of the evening, they gave us each as parting gifts a “Literary Map of St. Petersburg.” I was so excited — just my kind of thing! I have one of London as well. And even more exciting when Ariel discovered that there were series numbers listed on the bottom right corners. Mine was 25/100 and hers 24/100. Real, original prints! Oh how I love free art!
How does it look on my wall?
Update: for more info on this lovely little gem, go here.