Dylan Thomas no longer occupies his stool at the White Horse Tavern in Greenwich Village, but his portrait still commands the space where he fatally downed 18 shots of whiskey. Although most bonds between books and booze in New York are less intimate, the city’s taps still provide inspiration and escape for literary legends (and those working to be). All receive special tribute during Lit Crawl Manhattan, a creation of the San Francisco-based Litquake Foundation, which works to turn on people of all ages to literature — and foster community through it.
Inspired by a report that San Franciscans spent twice the national average on alcohol and books, the group spawned the Lit Crawl, which takes the high energy and pace of a classic bar crawl and injects a literary spirit. Pubs indeed factor prominently as venues, but the crawl often goes far beyond, filling up cafes, bookstores, galleries, clothing boutiques, barbershops, parks and police stations with readings, games, workshops, artwork, masquerades and even burlesque.
The event arrived in New York with one of its original creators Suzanne Russo, who moved from San Francisco in 2006. “Although New York obviously had a fabulous literary scene, I did not feel that it had anything quite like what Litquake offered,” she said. “It still surprises me that people love it as they do.”
Now in its seventh year, LitCrawl Manhattan dives this Saturday into the East Village and Lower East Side, covering 22 venues with an almost equal number of events, plus more than 100 authors, writers and poets involved, including Tiphanie Yanique, Dan Wilbur and Kenan Trebincevic. The two neighborhoods’ longstanding dedication to the arts make them ideal, as do the many welcoming business owners and residents, who appreciate the efforts to keep art alive in a rapidly gentrifying area.
“The beauty of Lit Crawl is that while it's always the same format,” Russo considers, “each year is always so different from the previous.” Intoxication during Lit Crawl may indeed come from the libations, but Russo hopes it also comes through words. “If people are inspired to read a book based on an experience at Lit Crawl, I feel my job is done.”
If you go
Sept. 13, 6-9 p.m.
East Village/Lower East Side
Free for 21+