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Village Pleasures for a Long Winter’s Eve

The holidays are behind us, and a stretch of short days and long nights lies ahead. Whether you have items to exchange for something you really want, or simply find yourself seeking entertainment to while the winter away, we can offer a few media suggestions for the armchair urbanist.

The year now past included notable book, music and film releases. It’s not too late to enjoy any of these new additions to the trove of Village culture:

The 1963 album that launched a film title.

Music –Down in Washington Square,” by Dave Van Ronk

Although not a household name, Dave Van Ronk (1936-2002) is known to music lovers as a musicologist, mentor, singer, songwriter, arranger and guitarist extraordinaire. The life and times of the “Mayor of MacDougal Street” (as his posthumously released 2002 memoir was titled) served as loose inspiration for the current hit film, “Inside Llewyn Davis,” about a folksinger trying to make his way in the early-1960’s Village scene. (On Nov. 7, GVSHP held a special advance screening for members at Sunshine Cinemas featuring the film’s location manager, Tyson Bidner, discussing shooting locations in the East and West Village.) This 2013 release from the incomparable Smithsonian Folkways label includes 54 tracks, 16 never before released.

Art —404 E 14,” Tibor de Nagy Gallery

For those familiar with the undistinguished intersection of 14th Street and First Avenue, it can come as a shock that a bland building on the southeast corner, where McDonalds occupies the ground floor, has been a remarkable hive of artistic production over several decades. Last summer, the Tibor de Nagy Gallery — which represents #404 resident Tom Burckhardt, a painter — exhibited works by artists who have lived there, including Larry Rivers, Yayoi Kusama and Claes Oldenburg. An eye-opening catalogue is available through the gallery.


A young Nat Hentoff.

Film —The Pleasures of Being Out of Step,” directed by David L. Lewis

Nat Hentoff, the civil libertarian and jazz expert who wrote for the Village Voice for 50 years, is the subject of this documentary that played at film festivals in 2013. This spring, it will make its premiere in local movie theaters, showcasing commentary not only from Hentoff, 88, but also civil rights lawyer Floyd Abrams, jazz critic Stanley Crouch, and poet Amiri Baraka. A taste of the Hentoff experience is available now through an accompanying book by Lewis, who teaches journalism at CUNY.

Books –The New York Nobody Knows: Walking 6,000 Miles in the City,” by William Helmreich

The strolls we adore in Abingdon Square or Alphabet City suddenly shrink in comparison to the epic peregrinations of William Helmreich, a sociology professor at CUNY who has walked nearly every single block in all five boroughs. Not only did the native New Yorker go through nine pairs of shoes in four years to gather material for his 449-page book, but he talked to all kinds of people along the way (according to this Times article) to inform his portrait of our vast, complicated, ever-changing city.

Just add hot chocolate, and enjoy.


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