ENCYCLOPEDIA OF NEW YORK CITY edited by Kenneth T. Jackson. (Yale: $60; 1,349 pp.) It would be possible, with a cunning pillow arrangement and support from friends and family, to read this encyclopedia (an excellent gift) straight through. Here is a brief sampling:
Algonquin Hotel. A hotel opened in 1902 on West 44th Street between 5th and 6th avenues. Alan Jay Lerner wrote the musical "My Fair Lady" in room 908. Basie, Count. [William] ( b Red Bank, N.J. 21 August 1904; d New York City, 26 April 1984). Pianist and bandleader. He moved to New York City about 1924; there he learned to play the pipe organ from Fats Waller. Carnegie Hall. The most famous concert hall in the United States. It was built between 1889 and 1891. The construction of the hall cost $1 million. Delmonico's Restaurant. Opened in 1827 by the Swiss brothers Giovanni and Pietro Delmonico. . . . Diamond Jim Brady reportedly sat five inches from the table and stopped eating only when his stomach touched it. El Morocco. Nightclub opened as a speak-easy in 1931 at 154 East 54th St. by John Perona. Known for its zebra-striped banquettes and glittering dark blue ceiling. F.A.O. Schwartz. Firm of toy and game retailers formed in 1863. A children's bank was opened in the store in 1988. Gotham. Anglo-Saxon name meaning "goat town" and popularly applied to New York City. It came into use after 1807, when Washington Irving used it satirically in several essays . . . to suggest a city of self-important but foolish people.
Maybe so, maybe so.