By Mark Z. Danielewski. Pantheon, $26.
Mark Z. Danielewski’s experimental texts offer either elaborate, maddening gimmickry or a revolution in literature. Regardless of what side you’re on, you’ll have to agree that the author puts more thought into the physical design of his fictions—the tome of swirling text that was House of Leaves and the National Book Award–nominated double narrative Only Revolutions—than some writers put into their entire books.
Danielewski’s latest, a modified reprint of a novella whose initial printing was only 1,000 copies, is his easiest to digest. Nursing wounds of spousal betrayal, seamstress Chintana attends the 50th birthday party of her rival, Belinda Kite, and winds up playing babysitter for five orphans. A storyteller, invited to entertain the children, tells an inappropriately dark tale about his “black-hearted” quest for a special weapon that he just may have in a latched case beside him. Did we mention that a wound made by this, the Fifty Year Sword of the title, reveals itself only after the victim turns 50?
The hook here: Danielewski echoes the oral tradition of ghost stories by employing the voices of the five orphans to take turns narrating. The book itself is stitched together like the story; thread is used to illustrate certain plot points. The writing itself occasionally hits on a detail disturbing enough to fall like freezing water down the reader’s spine, but just as often, its attempts to unnerve induce eye-rolls. These moments ensure that The Fifty Year Sword remains more curious than unsettling, and more of a fun concept than a stellar story.
Mark Danielewski reads at St. Joseph’s College Mon 22.
Bus Stop Café
By name alone, Bus Stop Cafe evokes a no-frills neighborhood greasy spoon; a place that’s full of commuters hastily grabbing a quick bite that’s dependably just fine before hustling to catch a bus (or a train or a plane or a cab). That vignette does not capture the Parisian-bistro essence of Bus Stop Cafe, which likely gets its name from being located near a, you guessed it, bus stop in the heart of the West Village. The hefty, wide-ranging menu—which includes an entire page of served-all-day breakfast options like warm banana-walnut pancakes ($12), a jalepeño-avocado omelette ($13.75) and a fully loaded bagel-and-lox sandwich ($13.75)—is where Bus Stop’s diner likeness starts and ends. The ample sidewalk seating hugs the perimeter of the quaint, dimly lit corner restaurant’s street-facing walls. The rustic wooden two-tops are each bedecked with a small vase and flower, and the waitstaff’s informed but not overbearing friendliness elicits the feeling of idling at a European bistro; it’s a perfect place to have an intimidate date, dine alone as you read or simple watch passersby while sipping a glass of vino ($9 to $10.75). For dinner, appetizers run the gamut from savory beef nachos ($13.75) to a cocktail of fresh, succulent shrimp ($12.75 for four pieces), while homemade soups (4.75 to $5.75, or complimentary with an entrée) like chicken or French onion are simple and comforting. All regular-menu entrées, like a prime-cut sirloin steak with fresh vegetables and potatoes, a
Venue says: “HAPPY HOUR: Mon-Fri 12-7, $5.00 House Wine & Selective Beers. Mon & Tue ALL wine bottles 1/2 OFF. Call for delivery 212-206-1100”