With all the hype and anti-hype surrounding The Eldridge--that LES club with the gold floors and gold-sprinkled cocktails for $32--what I have found most intriguing and vexing is the faux-bookshop facade.
Book lovers have already been fooled. Grub Street wrote that The Eldridge has turned away at least one "book collector who spotted a certain tome in the window that he had spent 25 years looking for." And for only 27 cents!
Which book was it? Was it C.P. Snow's The Conscience of the Rich, The Letters of Sigmund Freud, the Weight Watchers cookbook? These are some of the titles you'll find in the window of The Eldridge.
Generally, when I visit someone's home for the first time, I look at their books to tell me something about them. In bookshop windows, the displayed titles tell you about the shop, the values and tastes of its owners and clientele. Collections of books are (usually) meaningful. So I wondered what meaning might be contained in the assortment that decorates The Eldridge's exterior.
Perhaps a bit more invested in this than I should be, I plugged a bunch of the titles into Library Thing, the online book catalog that connects people with like-minded readers. I found few readers who shared many of The Eldridge's books--most shared only one or two titles in common. Four was the max, held by one "shushpence" who has 2,515 books in their library, including many collections starring Charlie Brown and Snoopy.
And coming in with 3 matches? Ernest Hemingway. Turns out that Papa and The Eldridge both have the following titles in their collections (you'll notice the Weight Watchers cookbook is not on Hem's list):
So you might think, if The Eldridge were a person, it would be macho, literary, and into hunting big game. But it has more books not in common with Hemingway's 7,411.
If I had to guess, based on its book collection, I'd say the Eldridge personality is someone approximately in their late 50s who is concerned about their weight but loves food. Socially insecure, Eldridge works to be the life of the party by arming itself with witty insults, funny stories, and clever quotations for use during anxiety-producing cocktail parties. While Eldridge has an intellectual streak, it secretly prefers to read women's melodramas.
Or it's just a totally random assortment and there is no personality behind those books.
Books in New York today are often props used to sell products. Or they're bland decorations, for example, when wrapped in uniform colored paper to match the decor. Unless they're eradicated completely, banished from stark condo homes. When asked why no bookshelves, some condo-dwellers reply, "We don’t need to have books out. We know that we know how to read.”
And of course, used and independent bookstores are vanishing from the city. So it's no wonder many people have been insulted by The Eldridge's choice to disguise itself as one, especially in a neighborhood once filled with books and people who endeavored to read them.
One anonymous commenter to an Eldridge review on the blog Mona's Apple put it bluntly when s/he wrote: "everytime i walk by this shithole i wish there were a real used book store there instead of another wannabe hangout for attention-starved zombies. the irony of the club's facade is the ultimate kick in the balls to the normal people residing in the LES."