Translation from English

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Dinesen and Dickenson Quotes

Quotes from a number of authors and on bronze plaques embedded in the sidewalk near the main Public Library building....

Let me see if I can google something--yes, this is a short piece of a very long article on the internet:

'Word Down' — New York City's Library Walk

Mija Riedel took a walk around Manhattan last year with downcast eyes.
Here's her story, which appeared in the October 30 Washington Post, about what lies beneath.
The Words on the Street In New York, 96 Reasons To Lower Your Gaze
In New York, the wittiest, wisest ideas lie underfoot — literally.
All you have to do is look down.
I was heading west on East 41st Street between Madison and Fifth avenues, scanning the pavement for open cellar doors and rickety grates, when I walked across a bronze plaque embedded in the sidewalk.
Roughly 2-1/2 by 1-1/2 feet, it illustrated in low relief a molecular diagram built around nine words: "The universe is made of stories, not of atoms."
A pair of black sneakers then crossed the panel (titled "Muriel Rukeyser, 1913–1980"), then white high tops.
The unexpected appearance of Rukeyser's words beneath my boots stopped me in the middle of the sidewalk at the height of lunch hour.
Intrigued, I moved on, keeping my eyes to the ground.
At 41st and Fifth, beneath a dallying pair of moccasins, another plaque resembling an open book proclaimed: "Library Walk. A Celebration of the World's Great Literature, Brought to You by the Grand Central Partnership and the New York Public Library. Sculptor: Gregg LeFevre."
In the two blocks of 41st Street between Park and Fifth avenues, LeFevre's 96 plaques quote 45 writers (11 women, 34 men) from 11 countries, spanning 20 centuries.
Each is illustrated with images inspired by the text.
The Grand Central Partnership (GCP), a nonprofit organization committed to revitalizing the neighborhood around Grand Central Terminal, conceived the project in the early 1990s.
Quotes were submitted — many by New York City librarians — and selections were made by a panel of literary experts convened by the GCP, the New York Public Library and the New Yorker magazine.
After 10 years and more than $100,000, Library Way (its official name) was dedicated in May 2004.
On this cloudless afternoon, sunlight glinted on the edges of a third panel [top] depicting a row of books, two hen bookends and a quote from E.B. White: "I don't know which is more discouraging, literature or chickens."
A pair of pointy, patent leather pumps stopped short where concrete bordered bronze.
"Oh! Sorry," said a female voice.
The shiny black stilettos pirouetted left and disappeared.
Across Fifth Avenue, students and laptop-laden researchers climbed the main stairs of the New York Public Library, dodging the tourists being photographed between its iconic lions.
I ducked in the front door to inquire further about the panels.
Both volunteers at the Friends of the Library counter paused, clearly surprised that someone had noticed the plaques.
"Did anyone else stop?" said one Friend, who wore the heavy, half-frame reading glasses that every child recognizes as visual shorthand for "librarian."
Then I remembered the moccasins.
"One paused."
"New Yorkers," she sighed, flipping through piles of brochures.
"They're too busy."
After a minute she located a pamphlet and passed it to me.
"More people should read them."
Outside I stood between the lions, Patience and Fortitude, as crowds flooded 41st Street.
The people passed the Chemists Club, the Dylan Hotel, YuYu41 Spa and the Vegetable Garden Kosher and Dairy Restaurant.
The modern, mirrored skyscraper on my left reflected the cast and chiseled facades of smaller skyscrapers, a passing cloud and the steel blue sky.
I was accustomed to Manhattan's relentless dazzle from eye level up but here on 41st Street the city had finally and completely closed the gap, becoming 360 degrees of head-to-foot, skyscraper-to-sidewalk stimulation.
Later that afternoon, I spent an hour on the GCP Web site studying photos of each plaque I'd missed, by the likes of Emily Dickinson, Gu Cheng, Lewis Carroll and Wallace Stevens.
Rene Descartes' quote — "The reading of good books is like a conversation with the best men of past centuries" — is illustrated with nine men wearing stiff suit coats and top hats, engaged in animated discourse among themselves and oblivious to a bustled woman standing alone off to the side.
Lucille Clifton wrote, "They ask me to remember but they want me to remember their memories and I keep on remembering mine."
Willa Cather's two lines are repeated until her panel overflowed with her words: "There are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before. There are only two or three human stories...."
The Descartes panel, along with a Gu Cheng poem and the sandy, wavy imagery illustrating Georges Braque ("Truth exists, only falsehood has to be invented") are the sculptor's favorites.
LeFevre has been making site-specific sculptures since 1984; all told, he has 127 projects around the country, including more than a dozen around New York City.
Most of his works are bronze, terrazzo or concrete set in pavement, and many are, like Library Way, a series of panels with text and images.
The following Saturday, I returned to browse Library Way without the stampeding weekday crowds.
No delivery trucks crowded the sidewalks.
No heels shuffled, tapped or clicked along the concrete.
I strolled around each plaque as if it were a flower bed.
Stevens' words were criss-crossed with bronze bird tracks.
Langston Hughes' were illustrated with breaking chains.
The bronze images and words were cast just high enough to register faintly through the soles of my shoes.
In front of the Dylan Hotel at 52 E. 41st, a doorman in his mid–twenties with a longish crew cut and polished black lace–up shoes lingered on the steps.
At his feet were the words of Thomas Jefferson: "Where the press is free, and every man able to read, all is safe."
I nudged the plaque [below] with my toe.
"What do you think of these?"
He shrugged.
"They're nice. This one's the best," he nodded toward Jefferson.
"Right in front? You're not tired of it?"
"It's the only one I've read, but it's the best."