Gemma Janes Takes Us to Left Bank Books
To inspire our gifting efforts this holiday season, we enlisted the help of Gemma Janes, the founder of the subscription book sharing service Sendb00ks. Below, Janes takes us inside one of her favorite haunts—Left Bank Books in Greenwich Village—for an education in literary gift giving.
Is there a better gift to wrap than a book? All those satisfying folds. Something to entertain, delight and sit beautifully on any shelf for years to come. And, you can always write the date inside to bring you back to this tumultuous year on earth, when reading truly became the most enjoyable—if not the only—way to travel. In Greenwich Village, Jess Kuronen and and Erik DuRon can be found reading, writing and talking to clients about the books they’ve unearthed during their travels, all of which have made their way onto the shelves of their beautifully curated and eclectic shop, Left Bank Books. On my last day in New York City, I went to browse their varied shelves: between E.T. paperbacks and issues of Interview from the ’80s are rare volumes of all kinds. After spending countless hours in Left Bank, I picked a few of my favorites for a last minute Christmas guide. Expect a Sendb00ks event in the Spring. <3 —GEMMA JANES
The Book of Dreams
A handy parody guide to dream motifs and interpretation delivered to the doors of curious readers during the ’60s and ’70s. An entertaining and educational way for a group of graphic artists to show what they were capable of to potential clients. And who doesn’t love to decipher a dream?
New York: Push Pin Studios, 1966. 12mo, publisher’s illustrated stiff paper wraps.
If you don’t want to read, perhaps you should sing. One of the world’s greatest lyricists, here with music to play along to. And imagine this portrait staring at you across the room from your piano. I wish I was the receiver…
Cohen, Leonard; Vinson, Harvey (editor). Songs of Leonard Cohen. Herewith: Music, Words and Photographs. New York: Amsco Music Publishing Company, 1969. $75
The Paris Review
Originally established in 1953, this ongoing and consistently great literary journal was the first I ever subscribed to, and these past editions make for brilliant gifts. In the first five years of publication, The Paris Review published works by Italo Calvino, Samuel Beckett, Jean Genet and Adrienne Rich. There is something for everyone: short stories, poems, interviews. And neat and beautiful enough to carry in your pocket to the Christmas party.
The Brooke Book
Impossible not to fall in love with this one… The revised edition of Brooke Shields’s early photo-biography. Published as Shields was evolving from controversial child star to adult A-lister, this collection of childhood, family and professional modeling photos chronicles her life. A combination of color and black-and-white photos (including some by Francesco Scavullo, Patrick DeMarchelier, and other fashion photographers) is accompanied by some of Shields’ poetry, journal entries, short stories, horoscopes and other texts. Originally published in 1978.
Ex libris ink stamp of French fashion editor and stylist Christopher Niquet to first page. Some edgewear and rubbing, very good condition.
No One Waved Goodbye
A beautiful book about the 27 club, including Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Brian Jones and Brian Epstein. Full of illustrations and memories of the musicians that shape our lives enclosed in a wonderful sleeve. Compiled by Fusion magazine editor Robert Somma after Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin overdosed only one month apart in 1970. A good copy of an uncommon book.
New York: Outerbridge & Dienstfrey, 1971. 1st Edition. Octavo, publisher’s daffodil paper-covered boards, spine stamped in black, charcoal endpapers, original illustrated dust jacket.
Mr. Bennet and Mrs. Brown
Anything created by the Hogarth Press is undoubtedly made with so much devotion at the hands of Virginia Woolf and her husband Leonard in their London basement that it will be sure to delight any thoughtful reader. This first edition of Woolf’s modernist manifesto was the first in the legendary Hogarth Essays series: Woolf responds directly to Arnold Bennett’s criticism of her work. Cover illustration by Vanessa Bell, Virginia’s sister…a family affair.
The Peyote Dance
I will put this one in here because I have been hunting for it for four years (it is rare), and now in the course of two weeks I have come into contact with two copies. The first I found in Mexico City. The bookseller was so reluctant to lend it to me that I had give him my passport in order to hold it. The second I found right here in Left Bank Books in pristine condition. What a treat to follow Antonin Artaud into the Sierra Tarahumaras in 1936, in his attempt to escape the bourgeois intellectual crowd in France, kick his heroin addiction and expand his consciousness. It is not an obvious Christmas choice, but it is a guaranteed trip.
Histoire d’O Pauline Raegan
What a book to hold! This quintessential erotic novel wrapped in sexy snakeskin will make for guaranteed Christmas entertainment. It’s an early printing of French journalist and novelist Desclos’s BDSM classic, originally published in 1954 under the pseudonym “Pauline Réage.” Desclos worked for the prestigious publisher Gallimard when she wrote the novel, a love letter to her boss and lover, the writer and editor Jean Paulhan.
Paris: Chez Jean-Jacques Pauvert, 1963. Early Printing. Small octavo, contemporary snakeskin binding, light pink endpapers, title-page printed in red and black.
Wide Sargasso Sea
I was happy to find so many Jean Rhys books on this recent trip to New York. A difficult alcoholic and party animal for the most of her life, Rhys was living in almost absolute seclusion when her writing was discovered, and quickly celebrated, for its raw wit. It is clear that Rhys spent a lot of her life really living and listening. If you have ever been a woman, moving around on your own through a city, listening to other drinkers alone at the bars, you’ll agree that the dialogue is piercingly accurate. “Only the magic and the dream are true — all the rest’s a lie.”
Special thanks to Left Bank Books!