September 26, 2014
Sergei Dovlatov gets a street in Queens
by Jacob Karpathian
Earlier this month, after eighteen thousand people signed a petition, an insouciant street corner in Forest Hills, Queens was named after Third Wave Russian author, Sergei Dovlatov. Those who knew the author described him as mischievous—Solzhenitsyn called him a “sausage immigrant,” for instance. For Dovlatov, whose most renowned work is about emigrating with a single suitcase, a posthumously named street means finding home anew.
Yet, Dovlatov is not the first author to lend his name to a New York City street. Irving Place remembers the beloved author of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” James Fenimore Cooper is survived by Copper Street, though not Cooper Square, which honors 19th century industrialist Peter. Edgar Allan Poe Street haunts the Upper West Side.
Palo Alto is famed for its surfeit of authorial streets, including our favorite, Melville Avenue. London has Caxton Street and Orwell Roundabout. Paris touts Avenue Victor-Hugo and Baldwin Boulevard. Berlin has Fontanestrasse and Polko Platz. (Some of these streets may only exist in my imaginary geography.)
While some might find it pedantic, remembering our literary icons by naming streets after them is something that should be done more often. Our authors have mapped out emotional and intellectual geography. They have directed us through strife, uncovered historical freedoms, and navigated poetic terra incognita. We should paint their names not just on book jackets, but on our street corners. This fall, I want to stroll down Bolaño Boulevard, round Wharton Way and get lost in Eliot Alley.