The Covid Journal is a project I launched a few days ago. It’s my response, my contribution, my attempt to be useful in this incredibly strange and difficult moment. On a regular basis I am going out into my community which includes one of the most virus besieged hospitals in this virus besieged city, Elmhurst Hospital.
Although I was born and grew up in Korea, I read books mostly written by English and American authors as a child. I especially loved Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, and Robert Louis Stevenson. Back then, my only reason for reading was for the joy of reading itself.
After my family immigrated to US, learning to read in my second language has become the biggest challenge I had to overcome. Throughout my colleges years, I spent a lot of time just reading textbooks for all the math and computer science classes I had to take. Then, reading just became a punishing exercise where my only objective was to understand and acquire the necessary knowledge to get through the course work.
In my late 20s, I began to realize that throughout my young adulthood all I read was technical books that did not give me any joy (although without them, I probably wouldn’t have a career). At the same time, I thought my reading level in English was just good enough for me to read books written by “serious” writers.
For whatever reason, it didn’t occur to me that I could go back to authors I used to love in my childhood. Somehow, I thought that they had to be “serious” writers. Of all the writers that I started to read, Jorge Luis Borges and James Joyce spoke to me more than anyone else. Borges especially became a literature teacher I never had. While reading some of the forewords in his book, I was delighted to learn that one of his favorite writers was none other than Robert Louis Stevenson.
Inspired by that fact, I recently reread Treasure Island in its original English. There was so much joy in just getting lost in the book and I came upon a scene that was a defining moment in the story (at least to me). It is a moment when Jim Hawkins realizes who he is or who he should be.
The word holus bolus is used ever more appropriately. How beautiful it is to get a reading advice on English literature from a blind Argentine writer whose time was well before mine! This experience made my recent trip to Buenos Aires all the more special.
I hope anyone who reads this post becomes Borges’ disciple like me. I think this beautiful prose “A Prayer” can easily turn anyone into one:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Ij5_xl-vs0At this year’s Poetry Walk, Galway Kinnell read Walt Whitman’s Crossing Brooklyn Ferry for the fourteenth time at the Fulton Ferry Landing, the poem that veiled and unveiled Whitman’s sexual orientation. His poem as yashmak—offering those sensitive to his femininity to look in through the slit he widened with his words, a poem he suspected and hoped might find a larger, more open crowd among the men and women generations after him, seeing mast-hemm’d Manhattan and sea-gulls oscillating their bodies much like he did in his time of thick-stemm’d pipes of steamboats. “Stand up, tall masts of Mannahatta!” he says, “Stand up, beautiful hills of Brooklyn! Throb, baffled and curious brain! Throw out questions and answers…”
by Brandt Wrightsman
On his land use and transportation blog, Starts and Fits, Aaron Donovan, examines Charlotte Street, and the effort to bring suburbia to the Bronx in “New Hope in the Bronx.” The post is from 2006, but thoroughly examines the history of development in the area using detailed maps and diagrams. If you’re interested in urban planning and Bronx history, it’s a fascinating read. While on the site check out his other posts on locations from St. John the Divine to DUMBO, and browse the Planning and Urbanism link collection.
by Harry Schleiff
For anyone interested in above, or below ground NYC history, Forgotten NY is an absolute treasure. Curious what your neighborhood looked like 100 years ago? Find detailed street necrology and photo galleries for neighborhoods from Greenwich Village to Astoria. Whether you live in Bushwick or Jamaica, St.George or the Lower East Side, this trove of original source documents will keep you occupied for hours. Want to get even closer to NYC history? Take a Forgotten NY walking tour anywhere from Prospect Park to Hell’s Kitchen.
Although the departure of Kim’s video in the East Village is indeed a tragedy, as Sophia Hollander’s article reveals, the new home for the collection actually seems like a fitting one, and the story behind it is fascinating.