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August 24th, 2007

AUSTER’S BOOKSHOP IS FICTIONAL: 7TH AVENUE BOOKS AIN’T BRIGHTMAN’S ATTIC

But Auster’s description of his fictional Park Slope is a fun mix of the real and the imaginary. Anyone who knows Park Slope knows that there’s more than a little verisimilitude in this excerpt from Auster’s Brooklyn Follie’s. While Brightman’s Attic may come from Auster’s imagination, La Bagel Delight is 100% true.

It was early spring when I moved in, and for the first few weeks
I filled my time by exploring the neighborhood, taking long walks in the park,
and planting flowers in my back garden—a small, junk-filled patch of ground that
had been neglected for years. I had my newly resurgent hair cut at the Park
Slope Barbershop on Seventh Avenue, rented videos from a place called Movie
Heaven, and stopped in often at Brightman’s Attic, a cluttered, badly organized
used-book store owned by a flamboyant homosexual named Harry Brightman (more
about him later). Most mornings, I prepared breakfast for myself in the
apartment, but since I disliked cooking and lacked all talent for it, I tended
to eat lunch and dinner in restaurants—always alone, always with an open book in
front of me, always chewing as slowly as possible in order to drag out the meal
as long as I could. After sampling a number of options in the vicinity, I
settled on the Cosmic Diner as my regular spot for lunch. The food there was
mediocre at best, but one of the waitresses was an adorable Puerto Rican girl
named Marina, and I rapidly developed a crush on her. She was half my age and
already married, which meant that romance was out of the question, but she was
so splendid to look at, so gentle in her dealings with me, so ready to laugh at
my less than funny jokes, that I literally pined for her on her days off. From a
strictly anthropological point of view, I discovered that Brooklynites are less
reluctant to talk to strangers than any tribe I had previously encountered. They
butt into one another’s business at will (old women scolding young mothers for
not dressing their children warmly enough, passersby snapping at dog walkers for
yanking too hard on the leash); they argue like deranged four-year-olds over
disputed parking spaces; they zip out dazzling one-liners as a matter of course.
One Sunday morning, I went into a crowded deli with the absurd name of La Bagel
Delight
. I was intending to ask for a cinnamon-raisin bagel, but the word caught
in my mouth and came out as cinnamon-reagan. Without missing a beat, the young
guy behind the counter answered: "Sorry, we don’t have any of those. How about a pumpernixon
instead?" Fast. So damned fast, I nearly wet my drawers.

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