• that london book fair

    March 5th, 2013

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    Today I just wanted to take some time to give a shout out to friend and frequent collaborator, Simon Johnson, who has taken his small, bicycle-delivered cult publication THAT from the streets of Istanbul to Art Dubai and now to the London Book Fair. A special LBF issue is about to hit the presses showcasing just a small portion of this city’s tremendous local talent and will be distributed throughout the fair, which runs from April 15-17 at Earl’s Court. The LBF is one of the world’s most important meetings of agents, publishers and authors, where deals are brokered and fresh talent comes to light. It’s also further indication that print, especially independent print, is still a very meaningful medium of expression. Whether you’re a writer, photographer, illustrator, or artist THAT continues to go places and take its contributors with it. Should you be interested in getting some good press for your work, consider submitting ideas to THAT Magazine via dubfield@yahoo.com (a.k.a Monsieur Editor-In-Chief). You never know where THAT will lead you.

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  • Go Galatasaray!

    January 3rd, 2013

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    The football club bearing the above name may be having a lousy season this year, but the neighbourhood in Beyoğlu is winning hands down on several counts. I’d like to list a few ways this colourful intersection between Taksim and Tünel currently scores as the number one place I’d maroon myself in the unlikely event that I ever be forced to maroon myself somewhere. Following are four reasons to go to the Galatasaray Mahallesi right now …

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    BEST COFFEE. Let’s start with the most important drink of the day. After nearly eight years and countless kilos of bitter beans, thousands of litres of scalded milk, and several burnt lips I have finally tasted caffeinated perfection. Or the closest thing I’m going to find to it in Istanbul. Kronotrop in Galatasaray, the “Espresso Blend Atelier” wins hands-down, without a doubt, absolutely, definitely — sorry if I’m overselling this — for the best espresso and espresso drinks in town. Camera-shy Çağatay Bey’s tiny little shrine to espresso is the genuine deal. Having long fostered the suspicion that he wasn’t getting his money’s worth when he had his morning brew, the Ankara-born owner has dedicated the last couple of years to researching the art of the espresso. This isn’t just about getting the correct bean (though he’s done that with direct trade, organic coffee). It includes using the right water, sourcing farm fresh milk and treating his trade with the respect it deserves. He’s also got a nice little selection of foreign newspapers and magazines for sale. But forget those for now — this is really about the coffee. I started off with a simple, unadulterated double espresso. No sugar, no additives. It was a true delight. Not bitter, but beautifully balanced. I normally drink Americanos because I find most espressos in this city too bitter. This wasn’t the case. Then I moved on to have not one but two separate flat whites made with farm-fresh milk. And another nice feature, despite all the coffee I drank … no jitters, no palpitations, no awful acidic stomach. The only problem with Kronotrop is that it’s diminished my ability to enjoy coffee elsewhere in the city. There may be more vibrant, funkier coffee joints, but in terms of taste no can touch Mister Çağatay’s espresso. Just don’t ask him for tea or Turkish Coffee. This place is devoted to the patronage of “Coffee Snobs.”

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    BEST CHEAP LUNCH/SNACK. Next up is the best damn wrap in town. Since being featured in Anthony Bourdain’s television series, Dürümzade has become a local legend. Deservedly. This is without a doubt the best grilled sandwich maker in town. Serving up a perfectly spiced, crisply charred wrap this is easily 2013’s champion for most satisfying 5tl lunch. Just thinking about the texture, taste and aroma makes me famished. The ustalar are a really jovial bunch, which just goes to show that fame doesn’t necessarily need to go to your head.

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    BEST FOOD MARKET. In fact to avoid overspending at the most entertaining food market in the city, go to Dürümzade first. On an empty stomach you can easily burden yourself with so many groceries at the Balık Pazarı, you’ll be in danger of dislocating your shoulders. Despite its name this market isn’t just about fish, though there’s plenty of fresh daily catch on offer. Crisp produce. Exotic poultry. Pickled delights. Scary animal parts. You name it, they’ve got it. Except for Kolhrabi / Yerlahana. That I couldn’t find, much to my disappointment. Still you can’t have everything, right? Oh yeah … to the man who remarked to his friends that my sartorial style was “Italian Villager”, there are plenty of yabancı who speak Turkish, though, perhaps I’ll give you first prize for the most original of comment I wasn’t supposed to understand.

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    BEST RUMMAGE. Then there’s Aslıhan Pasajı, which juts off the Balık Pazarı, and which I covered in an early post, which is probably the best vintage book rummage in town. There are so many fascinating glimpses into 20th Century Turkey here that it’s a must see. Especially if the weather isn’t clement you can warm your fingers thumbing through the wonderful magazines and periodicals for sale here. It’s well worth a peruse.

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  • Rummaging in the past: Aslıhan Pasajı

    December 17th, 2012

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    Today was a truly miserable, wet day. On top of that, the weather was bad. Perhaps on days like this there are few better refuges than the world of books. Fortunately, I had a chance between meetings wandering through Beyoğlu to pop into this fantastic pasaj just off the Balık Pazarı. This place is crammed full of interesting books, documents, newspapers and media from another time — to such an extent that you could totally lose all sense of the here and now. A good thing, in my opinion, especially on a day like today.

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     Galatasaray, Beyoğlu/İstanbul‎  34435

  • Kadıköy: the book haven

    July 14th, 2012

    If the sight of books spilling off tables, down steps and into the street makes you happy, visit Kadıköy immediately. There are many things to like about this Anatolian side neighborhood of Istanbul, but I’m going to start with the vast number of booksellers. There are people selling books on the pavement, in doorways, in the Akmar Pasajı, and in proper good old fashioned stores.  Read More…

  • Salt Galata

    June 7th, 2012

    Yesterday I decided I wanted to experience the audio exhibit Translated By, a series of 13 performed excerpts from books, and one original piece, by various writers about different cities and landscapes, some imagined, an exhibit sponsored by the British Council. For the most part, I’m glad I did, although I must admit I skipped over a few whose writing or narration style grated after a couple of minutes. As you tour about Salt Galata, you don your headphones and tune into a numbered channel, one for Istanbul, Tokyo, Baku, the Metaverse—you get the idea—and listen to a passage written about each of these places. I’d recommend it if you have some time.

    However, when I wasn’t absorbed in these orally rendered landscapes I found myself wondering about the physical space I was in. Ever feel that you really want to like a place but instead leave uncertain what to think? That’s how I feel about Salt Galata. When I first heard about the project, I was truly excited by the notion of such a space, but after several visits I’m still left a little cold. There’s something disjointed about it — there are many likable aspects, yet somehow they don’t seem to tie together. It’s to Garanti Bank’s credit that they financed this renovation of the old Ottoman Bank Building and turned it into a public space for research. It’s tastefully done, and I’m especially grateful that they didn’t over-brand it.

    At the end of my audio tour I decided to refresh myself at CA’D’ORO, the restaurant space. This is where the experience really falls apart for me. Cultural institutions need to make money, and a good way to do that is to offer a worthwhile dining/drinking experience to bring in revenue. The view is good, the tablecloths pressed, but there’s something about the attitude here, the pretense, that just doesn’t work. It was the middle of the day, but even so, there was a vibrancy lacking.

    Overall I think that’s the difficulty with Salt Galata. It’s a bit hard-edged. Whether you’re using the archives, or going to the cafe, my impression is there’s something not entirely welcoming about this space. Still, I really want to like it. What do you think?

  • The Book Bazaar: Sahaflar Çarşısı

    June 1st, 2012

    On rainy days there’s nothing better than taking refuge in a book. Yesterday I escaped a flash downpour in the Old City  under the awnings at the Sahaflar Çarşısı, a book bazaar located right next to the Covered Bazaar’s Beayzıt door.  While the slate sky above lit up and roiled with thunder, I discovered that there’s everything here from university textbooks to religious scripture, out of date travel guides, pulpy pocketbooks, massive coffee table tomes—and even a book claiming it had the inside scoop on the steamy life of Ottoman harems. Most of the stores don’t have a great selection for English readers but there are a few with a decent stock, including Gözen Kitap ve Yayın Evi, which has some splendid art books. As usual if you have cash, you can talk down the price of discovering all those sordid Ottoman Harem secrets. Definitely worth a peruse — the book bazaar, I mean.

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  • Reading List: China Míeville

    May 11th, 2012

    Genre fiction is sometimes regarded as beneath other forms of literary enterprise, but I think that’s unfortunate. To dismiss certain authors because they write stories that are not firmly planted in the “real” world is to miss out on staggering feats of imagination and mind-expanding ideas. And isn’t that one of the roles of fiction? There are superb writers creating fantastic stories who should not be ignored simply because they veer off the path of the ordinary into the extraordinary.

    However, I must admit that until recently I had gone off fantastic stories unless they were somehow anchored in the world we recognize. I needed the sense of place, the grounding in places with which I had a passing familiarity—and thought the realm of high fantasy, the realm of authors like J.R.R. Tolkien and Frank Herbert had become a little lackluster. Then I discovered China Míeville’s The City & The City on a bookshelf in Beirut. Though set in our present day it created a fictional Balkan city that overlapped with another city in space-time. Its description of two overlapping cities, the residents of each deliberately trying to ignore the other, immediately made me think of Istanbul. The book was compelling enough that I decided I would venture into Perdido Street Station next, the author’s second novel, set in a wholly fictional steam punk universe. I don’t know if this book is a masterpiece or not—I’m not fond of such back page pronouncements—but I can tell you I will read the book again. It unfurls a little languidly at the beginning, making a worthwhile investment in setup, and then becomes one of the most exciting, vivid novels I’ve read in years.

    I haven’t yet read all of Mr. Míeville’s works, but I can tell you that he’s an extremely gifted author. His descriptions of cities, real or imagined, are beautifully rendered, full of the grit, grime, scents and smells that bring a place to life on the page. This is an author who understands what cities mean. I recently finished King Rat, his debut novel, which weaves the musical genre of drum n’ bass with the legend of the Pied Piper set in contemporary London. I was completely hooked.

    There’s nothing tender or sweet about Míeville’s books. If you’re looking for “likable” characters or soft focus whimsy don’t venture into his worlds. However, if you like staggering feats of imagination, interesting scenarios and writing that’s so vivid you get a taste—sometimes the metallic one of blood—in your mouth, drop by a bookstore and pick up one of Mr. Míeville’s works.

  • The Hermetic Museum Alchemy & Mysticism

    December 26th, 2011

    © 2011 TASCHEN GmbH

    Santa Claus has many powers, but he’s not a mind reader. That’s why I had to give myself a little Christmas present today after discovering The Hermetic Museum: Alchemy & Mysticism by Alexander Roob at my local bookstore. As you’d expect from a Taschen book it’s lavishly illustrated, and by far the most appealing visual guide to alchemy I’ve had in my hands. Its author, who studied painting at the University of Fine Arts, Berlin has been teaching at the Academy of Fine Arts, Stuttgart since 2002.

    In my opinion, no self-respecting student of alchemy should be without it.

    www.taschen.com

     © 2011 TASCHEN GmbH

    © 2011 TASCHEN GmbH

     © 2011 TASCHEN GmbH