New York City has been, and continues to be, home to thousands of writers. Many famous authors have lived here, walked our streets and sent their characters on adventures through the pages of this city. Herman Melville, Edgar Allen Poe, Jack Kerouac and Ralph Ellison spent much of their time here, gaining inspiration for their bestselling and beloved novels. Books like “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” “The Great Gatsby” and “Sex and the City” are all based in the city. From romance novels to thrillers and mysteries to historical fiction, literature transports readers to another time and another world. In this case, it happens to be the skyscraper-dotted streets of New York City. Read on to visit the literary landmarks of New York.
Tiffany & Co.
Truman Capote is best known for his novella “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” written in 1958, in which starlet Holly Golightly wafts her way through New York City. Told by Holly’s wistful neighbor Paul, the story documents the naive young girl’s adventures and innocent beliefs. Her travels frequently take her to Tiffany & Co., where she believes nothing bad can happen. Most women today will automatically think of the Tiffany’s “little blue box” containing every girl’s dream of a diamond ring. From the moment you step foot in the flagship store on Fifth Avenue, you are greeted by glittering jewels and beautiful craftsmanship. This is a must-visit for anyone who loves the store and the story equally.
Even featuring their own Fitzgerald Suite, the Plaza Hotel is intricately tied to F. Scott Fitzgerald and his eternal story of “The Great Gatsby.” Fitzgerald himself often frequented the hotel with his wife in the early 20th century, probably why the iconic hotel shows up in his novel about America’s great jazz age. Near the end of the novel is when the gang – Tom, Daisy, Gatsby, Jordan, and narrator Nick – head to the city from their grand digs in the West Egg of Long Island. Of course, their stay doesn’t last long since a confrontation between Gatsby and Tom breaks out (about their love for the beautiful, carefree Daisy) and ruins the group’s plans. The Plaza is today a hotel swamped by tourists by day but filled still with old money and class. With a recently restored exterior, there’s no better time to visit the Plaza than now.
Edgar Allen Poe Cottage
This quaint little cottage is where “Raven” author Edgar Allen Poe spent the last years of his life. The house was built in 1812 and Poe lived there between 1846 and 1849. Many of his poems were written here including “Annabel Lee.” The cottage has recently been restored to its original appearance, complete with period furnishings. Tours of the house are available on the weekends for a small fee. This is a great place to visit this summer, if you’re looking for a unique spot to impress your date or to show off your Poe knowledge to friends.
Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Met is an icon in its own right, and it has certainly been featured in plenty of books from yesterday to today. Probably one of the most well-known stories is E. L. Konigsburg’s “From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankenweiler.” The beloved children’s story is about two young siblings who decide to run away from home to spend the night in the hallowed halls of the Metropolitan Museum. What child – or adult, even – hasn’t once thought of sneaking in after dark to sleep on the beds that kings once slept on or trying on the armor of knights or conversing with the Egyptian mummies and Greek statues? Claudia and Jamie get the run of the museum, eventually encountering a mystery of their own. Make your own adventure through the art and artifacts on view at the Met today – just don’t attempt to sneak past security at the end of the night; it likely won’t turn out as well as it does for the Kincaid children!
American Museum of Natural History
Another museum on our list, this one is just as fun to peruse as the Met. And Holden Caulfield thought so too, in the well-liked J. D. Salinger novel, “The Catcher in the Rye.” In the book, Holden adventures throughout, it seems, all of the best spots in New York City – including the carousel in Central Park, the Biltmore Hotel, and the Rockefeller Center skating rink. He heads to the AMNH in the hopes of finding his younger sister Phoebe; although he doesn’t find her, the troubled Holden nonetheless finds comfort in the never-changing exhibits of animals and civilizations – time suspended. If life seems to be flying by for you too, head to the museum, where you can take change time to discover dinosaurs, herds of elephants in the Sahara, Eskimos and Indians.
Central Park Conservatory Water
You’ve been here before, watching the toy boats speed through the water. It’s surrounded by iconic literary statues of “Alice in Wonderland” (the story which is now celebrating its 150th anniversary, written by Lewis Carroll) and Hans Christian Anderson (whose “Ugly Duckling” story is epitomized in bronze as a duckling at the statue’s feet). Besides these popular reminders of some of our favorite authors and stories, the Conservatory Water has been the site of many an adventure within a novel as well – including E. B. White’s “Stuart Little.” Spend a day here on your own to relive the favorite boating scene or take your kids to start their own adventures.
What are your own favorite books that remind you of New York City? Where do they take place? What are your favorite literary landmarks? Connect with us by commenting in the box below or by tweeting to @egyptologist!