Monday, March 24, 2014

Liveright Bookshop, Hotel Dressler


[The New Yorker, February 21, 1925.]

I found this advertisement while browsing the digital version of the first issue of The New Yorker. I like the ad’s contradictory promises of sanctuary and speed, relaxed browsing and instant gratification. Those promises remind me of the advertising ace Harwinton’s logic in Stephen Millhauser’s novel Martin Dressler: The Tale of an American Dreamer (1996). Here is Harwinton on the Hotel Dressler:

The Dressler, he argued, was a rural retreat, a peaceful outpost far from the clamor of downtown Manhattan, but at the same time the Dressler was located in a new and thriving part of the city, only a short distance from a convenient Elevated station, and even closer to the projected subway station on the Boulevard — was located, in short, in the very path of progress. For it was Harwinton’s belief that every city dweller harbored a double desire: the desire to be in the thick of things, and the equal and opposite desire to escape from the horrible thick of things to some peaceful rural place with shady paths, murmuring streams, and the hum of bumblebees over vaguely imagined flowers.
Martin Dressler is a wonderful novel, literally: a nineteenth-century fable about the attractions and limitations of virtual worlds.

The Liveright Bookshop’s address was recently occupied by the restaurant Alfredo’s of Rome, now closed. Alfredo’s online gallery of famous eaters is worth a look. I cannot tell who, if anyone, now occupies 4 West 49th.

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