‘Made at NYPL’ features Robert Caro and other writers

Reading on the steps of the New York Public Library. — File pic
Reading on the steps of the New York Public Library. — File pic

NEW YORK — On the very day he arrived by ship in New York in January 1917, Leon Trotsky, who would become Lenin’s leading lieutenant in revolutionary Russia, was met by the editor Nikolai Bukharin.

He dragged Trotsky across town to admire, the historian Orlando Figes wrote, “the most accessible major library in the world, open evenings and to anyone without any accreditation.”

Trotsky returned regularly to the space, the New York Public Library, where his awe at the magnitude of United States exports to Europe during World War I would define American-Soviet competition for decades.

Over the decades, the Fifth Avenue building has hosted countless writers, including Elizabeth Bishop, E.L. Doctorow, Alfred Kazin, Henry Miller and Isaac Bashevis Singer.

The library is celebrating their work with author lectures that began last year and with a new “Made at NYPL” exhibition series that started this month and features Robert A Caro, who researched his Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of Robert Moses, The Power Broker, in the early 1970s at the main branch.

“Anyone who walks in the door has access to the 45 million items we possess,” said William Kelly, the Andrew W. Mellon director of the research libraries, “and those items are means to an end — the end is these great books that have been produced at the library.”

The first phase of the exhibition, on the third floor of the Stephen A Schwarzman Building through April 7, includes verse Moses wrote in 1908 while he was a budding poet at Yale and a 1930 map of proposed parks in the Bronx.

Caro was working from a cinder block basement storeroom in Riverdale when he read in New York magazine about a program at the library that gave authors with book contracts their own carrel and let them keep their borrowed books there overnight instead of having to return them every day.

“I’ve spent my life finding stuff there that was impossible to find anyplace else,” Caro said.

He found something else, too. He discovered that he was in the company of Barbara W Tuchman, Joseph P Lash, Nancy Milford, Ferdinand Lundberg, Sidney Offit and Susan Brownmiller.

“The day I read the names of the writers to whose work space I had been admitted,” Caro recalled, “was the day that I felt I might be a writer, after all.” The ringgit is hit by slipping oil prices and negative sentiments after renewed concerns over 1MDB. — Sam Roberts/The New York Times

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