City Spotlight:: Raise a Glass to Literary Greenwich Village
Kettle of Fish, although less acclaimed, was another popular Beat hangout. Established in 1950, the bar welcomed artists and writers, including Kerouac, Ginsberg and Dylan. The bar has been immortalized by a famous photograph of the inebriated Kerouac standing in front of its neon sign. Despite the Kettle of Fish's many incarnations, moving from MacDougal Street eventually to 59 Christopher Street, it still holds on to its literary, divey roots. Not only can one still find the famous Kerouac photograph, but the sign itself has been moved into the bar, allowing patrons to create their own Kerouac moment. Should a visit fall on a Sunday during football season, though, literary enthusiasts should expect a crowd of diehard Packer fans disrupting any attempts to channel their inner Kerouac.
Writers of the Jazz Age
Before the Beats, there was the Lost Generation of the Jazz Age, who ushered in a vibrant literary era in the Village. It was not unusual during this time to see the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemmingway and Ezra Pound carousing in the local establishments. A favorite literary drinking spot was the Black Rabbit, now Minetta Tavern on 113 MacDougal Street.
Although groundbreaking and often controversial writers like cummings, Louis Bromfield and Hemmingway frequented the speakeasy, the jazz-thrumming club also gave birth to the much less controversial Reader’s Digest, which rented out the basement to print its first issues in 1923.
Even faux-literary members of the Jazz Age called the Black Rabbit home. Joe Gould, who spent enough time at the speakeasy to have his mail sent there, often spoke of his massive in-progress work An Oral History of Our Time. Yet at the time of his death, no great manuscript surfaced, confirming a decades-old hoax. Although the Black Rabbit is no more, a reincarnation of the speakeasy sits at 91 Greenpoint Avenue in Brooklyn. According to New York magazine, “If the Coen Brothers were scouting for a Prohibition-era bar in Greenpoint, they’d stop looking once they chanced upon the Black Rabbit.” It was even recommended by the Village Voice, which perhaps lends some cred to its otherwise lacking literary history.
Ellen Harvey is a freelance writer and editor who covers the latest technologies and strategies reshaping the publishing landscape. She previously served as the Senior Editor at Publishing Executive and Book Business.