These People Take Their 'First Editions' of the Iliad Very Seriously

Categories: Books, Culture

"This is a...this is a first edition?"
In the latest Jennifer Lopez hate-watch masterpiece, The Boy Next Door, she plays a classics teacher who is seduced by her strapping young student, played by Ryan Guzman. In one particularly unfortunate scene, he comes by her desk to give her a Victorian-era copy of Homer's ancient oral epic the Iliad that he bought "for a buck at a garage sale"; she gasps, "Is this — a first edition?!"

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Read These Lesser-Known Books on Race This Black History Month

Original is at the Smithsonian Institution's National Portrait Gallery
Frederick Douglass: Born February 1818, died February 1895 (daguerreotype from 1847)
We commemorate so much in this country that we tend to become numb to celebrations like Black History Month. The U.S. has observed the occasion every February since 1976. (Prior to that, it was Negro History Week, which originated in 1926.)

If the past year has taught us anything, it's that setting aside one month to ponder something we should be thinking about all the time is questionable at best. That said, an opportunity is an opportunity.

So the Voice took this one to reach out to four insightful New Yorkers to help us assemble a reading list worthy of Black History Month and beyond.

You won't find classics by authors like Zora Neale Hurston and Langston Hughes — not because they're not worth reading, but because we figured plenty of people know about them already. Instead, we aimed to up our game with these newer or lesser-known works from the canon.

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Our Favorite Books of 2014

Categories: Books, Lists

Devoting yourself to a book, like a lover or Christopher Nolan movie, is an act of commitment. But which are worth the time and effort? Once again, we've done the dirty reading for you, separating the wheat from the chaff, the misplaced modifiers from the well-placed modifiers. Here are our favorites from 2014. Grab your glasses and a glass of something that tastes like whiskey and enjoy!

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Lena Dunham's Book Reading Included Little-Known Comedian Amy Schumer (And a Baby)

Categories: Books, Film and TV

Katie Toth
Antsy Lena Dunham fans, shut out of the fourth floor of Barnes & Noble, resign themselves to watching Dunham's event on a television screen nearby.
Better Than: Eating ice cream and pickles with Jemima Kirke

Lena Dunham's book Not That Kind of Girl (Random House, September 30) is full of homages to Helen Gurley Brown, the Cosmopolitan editor who drew ire from feminists and "smut police" alike for "having it all."

So maybe it's only fitting that the first stop of her book tour -- on Tuesday, at the Union Square Barnes & Noble -- was interrupted by an adorable five-month-old baby.

"This isn't for babies!" Dunham joked at one point during her reading, appearing a little flustered. "I love babies. But this is...sexual!"

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A Brooklyn Librarian Will Now Make You a Personalized Reading List, and You Don't Even Have to Put on Pants

Photo by Flickr user Jose Raimundo Sousa Ribeiro Jr.
The main Brooklyn Public Library branch at Grand Army Plaza
This has been, without a doubt, an excellent summer for New York's libraries. In Manhattan, the Stephen A. Schwarzman branch set up a beautiful outdoor reading room that was open for the past two weeks before closing on the 22nd. A group of seafaring book lovers announced that they'll launch a floating library aboard the Lilac Museum Steamship for a month come September. And now, in a less temporary and totally genius move, a group of hardworking librarians across the Brooklyn Public Library system will make you a personalized reading list. You don't have to leave the house, dress yourself, or talk to another human being to put in a request for one. The future is here, and it is glorious.

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Topless Book Club Wisely Opts Out of "Go Topless Day"

Image via Facebook
The topless book club during a recent outing.
We're sorry to be the bearers of bad news, but you missed out on an important national holiday on Sunday: GoTopless Day, which was held in cities across the country and is exactly what it sounds like. The festival of shirtlessness is sponsored by the Raelian Movement, a cheerful and publicity-hungry group of folks who believe that life on earth was created by aliens.

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The New York Public Library Just Set Up an Outdoor Reading Room on 5th Avenue

Image courtesy of the New York Public Library
It's set to get hot, humid and occasionally stormy this week, as New York's weirdest summer ever (weather-wise, anyway) continues. But it's still summer, dammit, and that means you should be spending your leisure time at the pool, smearing an ice cream cone on your face, or buried in a book. The New York Public Library would very much like it if you'd do some of your reading with them. And so they've set up a glorious outdoor reading room at the main branch on 42nd Street and 5th Avenue.

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St. Mark's Bookshop Has Moved to East 3rd Street, Won't Be Called East 3rd Bookshop

The new location at 136 E. Third Street
It's been coming for a long time, but it still doesn't quite lessen the sting: St. Mark's Bookshop has moved from its longtime location on 3rd Avenue. The venerable bookseller had been battling its landlord, Cooper Union, for a number of years, trying without success to keep the school from raising their rent. But they are not, repeat, not gone for good: they've got a new shop location in the East Village, at 136 E. Third Street, between Avenue A and 1st Avenue. The move was made possible in part by an IndieGoGo campaign; bereaved book-lovers donated almost $52,000 to help out.

The bookshop staff reports on Facebook that they probably won't re-open until next week, the week of July 7. In the meantime, no one is mourning their departure from 3rd Avenue quite as keenly as Jeremiah Moss of Jeremiah's Vanishing New York. Moss petitioned passionately to save the bookshop when it was first endangered back in 2011. He notes that the store left behind a lovely Ted Berrigan poem in their window to say goodbye. And he's written St. Mark's a love letter of his own, which made us just a little prickly behind the eyes.

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Grilling Mimi Pond About Her New Graphic Novel, Over Easy

Panels from Over Easy.
Cartoonist Mimi Pond's history with the Voice goes back to the early '80s, when she drew a page regularly for Mary Peacock's fashion section. Pond soon became a best-selling humorist with her book The Valley Girl's Guide to Life. In the meantime, she wrote for television, writing for Pee-Wee's Playhouse and the first episode of The Simpsons, "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire."

Her first graphic novel, Over Easy, is a clever, warm-hearted look back at her time as an art-school dropout-turned-waitress in an idiosyncratic Oakland diner, as California hippieism was giving way to disco and punk.

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A Chilly, Educational Field Trip with the Outdoor Co-Ed Topless Pulp Fiction Appreciation Society

Categories: Books, Breasts

Image via The Topless Outdoor Co-ed Topless Pulp Fiction Appreciation Society
The book club at Lincoln Center, shortly before they were asked to re-clothe
In this week's cover story, we profile Holly Van Voast, an artist who for a time was also one of New York's most frequently topless women.

In 2011 Van Voast created a character named "Harvey Van Toast," who ventured out with a camera, a curly mustache painted on with liquid eyeliner -- and no shirt. She photographed hundreds of people in that persona, both her friends in the underground "punk drag" scene and a series of befuddled celebrities. (Filmmaker Chris Stearns made an excellent documentary, Topless Shock Syndrome, about Van Voast, with lots of photos of the performers she captured. It's available here.)

Although toplessness has been legal in New York state for 25 years, Van Voast was arrested or detained at least a dozen times, and involuntarily committed for psychiatric evaluation on four different occasions. Even when she wasn't being hassled by the police, she told me, public toplessness could be terrifying: "It's really nerve-wracking. It was like Jackass on speed." Before she went out, she says, "I'd sit there sweating for an hour."

After a few weeks of working on the story, it seemed to me that the only way to properly understand being topless in public was to do it (my editor would probably appreciate if I mentioned at this point that this wasn't his idea). I emailed the Outdoor Co-Ed Topless Pulp Fiction Appreciation Society, asking if could come along on the club's next outing.

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