Remembering the Gotham Book Mart

“That’s our trouble,” said my friend Roger, “everything used to be something else.” I had just told him about meeting my brothers and their families for the third Chanukah candle, 13 relatives in all, at a glatt kosher restaurant called Taam Tov in the Diamond District, on the very site of the legendary Gotham Book Mart. On November 17, 1986, my book, Kerouac’s Spontaneous Poetics, one of the first full-scale studies on the iconic beat poet and novelist, was celebrated here. A sign, “Wise Men Fish Here,” marked the spot, a literary emporium on a bejeweled street. The James Joyce Society met here. Among many other book parties, a reissue of Junkie was feted here too, in 1977. Carl Solomon and Patti Smith attended, honoring William S. Burroughs’ work. Poet Allen Ginsberg, who had clerked here back in the day, snapped my picture.

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