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A Guide to Literary New York


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New York is undoubtedly America's most culturally vibrant city. Throughout its history, it's always been a catalyst for innovation and change, not least in terms of its literary contribution. Today, the city's literary extensive heritage allows travelers to track the footsteps of some of its most celebrated contributors.

Greenwich Village

Greenwich Village is the city's alternative hub, a pocket of bohemian free-thinking where both budding and established writers have attempted and, on occasions, successfully, penned some of their greatest works.

A stay at one of the New York hostels surrounding Greenwich Village's Washington Square Park is an excellent way to get to the heart of the city's literary heritage. As if being immortalized in the title of a Henry James novel wasn't enough!

Locals from the surrounding New York University have helped maintain the area's bohemian air, where writers and intellectuals are to be found pondering the details of their latest lecture.

Just to the north of Washington Square at 23 Fifth Avenue, is the former home of socialite and literati figure, Mabel Dodge. Her parties were known through the city as the place for an aspiring young writer to hobnob with the likes of Margaret Sanger, T. S. Elliot and Gertrude Stein.

In the wake of the Second World War, the area really developed its artsy reputation as it became home to the Beats. With this came a renown for drink and drug-addled parties and wild shenanigans that carried on long into the 60s and 70s.

The area's coffee houses such as Caffe Reggio and Cafe Figaro have inspired work by writers like William Burroughs. There are several walking tours of the area, meanwhile, that offer an excellent way to experience its literary culture and history.

The Chelsea Hotel

Backpackers may find the prices a bit steeper than your average New York hostel, but the famous Chelsea Hotel in Manhattan was another of the city's major literary hotbeds. Found on 222 W 23rd Street, throughout its history it's been home to all manner of figures from the world of music, cinema and fashion.

Former long-term literary residents include Mark Twain, Arthur Miller and Jean-Paul Sartre. Interestingly, it's also where the great Dylan Thomas died and where Arthur C. Clarke penned 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Despite the price, unless you're really scruffily dressed, there are rarely any objections to bookish travelers passing the hallowed doorway, and having a quick snoop around the place where Jack Kerouac frantically hammered out the first draft of On the Road!

Before settling down and becoming a copywriter for HostelBookers, Paul Scottyn did a backpacking tour of USA, he checked out a variety of the country's budget accommodation, including a number of most New York hostels


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