Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Novel Advice

Puns are sloppy writing, but this unfortunately named article in this week's New York Magazine does a pretty fair job of discussing the most writer-friendly coffee shops in New York City.

I have been to all of the except for The Archive, and though I disagree with the article's results, as somebody who had done a significant amount of writing in coffeeshops over the past ten years I do think that the writer-friendliness of a cafe is an important consideration.

Though perhaps this is implied, the best coffee shops overall aren't necessarily the best coffee shops in which to write. A place like Brooklyn's Gorilla Coffee has mind-blowing coffee that can dehydrate a camel, good music and is full of people who look like they've had at least two submissions rejected by McSweeney's, but for all that it is a pretty awful place to write - bad acoustics (it sounds as if they are perpetually grinding beans right next to your ear), little elbow room and not enough outlets to go around. 4th Avenue's Root Hill Cafe has great coffee and baked goods, but has weird, vaguely IKEAish tables and chairs that look like they were kidnapped from Dr. No's island headquarters, making it difficult to get comfortable and write.

Think Coffee fared well on this list, and for good reason, but it is so writer-friendly that it is invariably full of very authorish people who write in their Moleskin notebooks between chapters of their Joan Didion and Michael Chabon novels, but they all look like such Bookworm Hipster Douchebags (it takes one to know one) that you end up wanting to punch yourself in the balls before you write another word. Its hard to find the right combination. Tea Lounge, which this article rated highest of all, is pretty nice on the weekends, but during the week gets invaded by The Park Slope Stroller Brigade of highly educated stay-at-home moms who get together after yoga to gossip and discuss celebrity break-ups and brag about how much money their husbands make or whatever the fuck it is that stay-at-home moms in Park Slope moms do all day long. So far, the best coffee shop I have found in Brooklyn is South Slope's Southside Coffee, the best analogy for which is probably Madison, Wisconsin's In the Company of Thieves, another writer-friendly place that's enormously underrated, unless you live in the near-east side 'grad student ghetto.' My favorite one in Manhattan is the Think Coffee on 2nd Avenue (not the one on Mercer).

What is your favorite coffee shop or cafe in which to write? What do you look for in a coffee shop, and what's the best one near where you live?

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