Alice Through the Lincoln Tunnel: A Bibliophile in NYC

This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series New York City

NYC from Central Park“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.
“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”
“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.
“You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

To be totally honest with you, I wasn’t thrilled to be back in New York City. There are so many people, many of them are strange, everybody’s always in a hurry, and they all live in very tiny apartments. While I figured I would never understand my friends’ and family’s affinity for the city, I still like to see them so I was back to visit and this time I was determined to enjoy myself. I had done some research into literary sights of the city, figuring these might give me a more favorable impression of NYC. Thanks to my current two favorite bloggers, Young Adventuress and Stories My Suitcase Could Tell, who both have posts about the best places for bibliophiles in NYC, I decided to visit the Morgan Library and the Strand bookstore.

Morgan Library, NYCI definitely enjoyed my tour of the Morgan. When I walked into the old, original Morgan Library I thought, “Yes, this is what my home library should look like.” I couldn’t get enough of the old books!

Morgan Library
Books, books, and more books!!! In the Morgan Library.

Sadly the books were all kept out of reach and behind glass from the longing fingers of bibliophiles like myself, but I did notice each book had a paper marker meaning they were all cataloged for use. It turns out you can request to view any of these books in the Morgan Library reading room if you have a valid research proposal. I suddenly wished I had a research project requiring the use of ALL the old Dickens and Austen novels.

Emma at the Morgan
An old copy of Jane Austen’s Emma in the Morgan Library

I spent a few hours at the Morgan touring the old part and each of the newer galleries, eavesdropping on tour groups, and savoring the quiet, uncrowded space. Unfortunately, too soon it was time to head back out to the crowded street to head towards our dinner restaurant. On our way I was able to stop in the Strand bookstore for only a couple of blissful moments. This bustling bookstore proudly boasts 18 miles worth of bookshelves, and by my estimate, probably contained about 18 miles worth of customers. As I was short on time, standing in the checkout line for anything was out of the question so I simply wandered the shelves for a few happy moments. I was pleased to see here that the used books with old looking spines were very accessible to everybody.

Strand Bookstore
Old books in the Strand bookstore

While I had enjoyed the bibliophile haunts suggested by the bloggers, I still hadn’t reconciled myself to liking the city. It wasn’t until the next day when we were making our way across Central Park that the bushes seemed to open up and there before me was a giant bronze representation of Alice in Wonderland.

Alice in Central Park
Wonderland in Central Park

Somehow in all my research, I had missed the fact that Alice, the Mad Hatter, the Hare, and the Dormouse resided in Central Park! A feeling of happiness so intense I wanted to cry filled me. The familiar faces of childhood fantasy suddenly put the entire city of NYC into perspective.

The overwhelmingly strange inhabitants…Alice_par_John_Tenniel_25

The rushing as if everybody is late…
White RabbitAnd the tiny living arrangements…Squished AliceSeriously, this was our circular staircase down to the bottom floor apartment space we had rented through Airbnb. It was barely wide enough to fit a human body in, much less a human body carrying luggage. (To be fair to our Airbnb, it was quite comfortable and I would definitely recommend it. It really was not any smaller than any other apartment you might find for a similar price. But, it felt a little like the space had shrunk or we had suddenly grown too big for normal space.)

Airbnb stairs
Micah in our Airbnb circular stairwell.

I am still undecided as to whether being like Alice in Wonderland makes me feel better about New York City, but I can tell you it’s full of adventure, and even worth visiting now and again, even if it’s just to make you appreciate everywhere else a little more.

Are there places you’ve determined you’ll just never be a fan of? Have you ever found yourself in a place that reminded you of a story book? Tell me about it in the comments!

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  • Ah…nothing like an old bookstore! The one places looks beautiful, It’s a shame all the books are behind glass though, although I understand them wanting to preserve them. This reminds me that there’s a library in an old fancy looking building in the city near where I’m at. I went in there as a kid and remember thinking how cool it all looked, with the huge wooden bookshelves and staircases. I really need to make a point to go back in there soon! I’ll have to keep an eye out for that Alice statue next time I go to central park too, looks really cool! 🙂

    • I’d love to see a photo of the place near you! It sounds wonderful! I couldn’t tell you where we were in the park when I found Alice. I was actually looking for Balto, who I never found, but I’m glad I happened upon Alice and friends!