Gotham Gifts

At Murder Ink, a dog with a body by Edward Gorey alternately paces and sleeps, sometimes near the well-stocked nook of Gorey gear. The first store to cater exclusively to the wonderful world of criminous letters, Murder Ink offers signed current chart-climbers, first editions, well-preserved pulp at $5-$30 (Mickey Spillane's Me, Hood), and a vast selection of paperbacks—everything from English police cosies and the Fletch novels to Jim Thompson (the lovingly lurid Black Lizard reissues from the '80s) and the adventures of Earl Derr Biggers's Charlie Chan. 2486 Broadway, 362-8905 (PARK)

The genteel Ivy's Books and Curiosities mingles new and used titles on the same shelves in healthy heterogeneity. When you realize that your friends don't read anymore, get them the variations on the classic theme book ($7.95), the mottled covers decorated with pages from casting books ("Leading Women—Ingenues") or reproductions of Spanish movie posters. Other stocking stuffers include paper-model kits, flipbooks, and slim, vintage recipe books from the '50s and '60s ($10-$15). Isn't it time your roommate relearned The ABC of Chafing Dish Cookery? 2488 Broadway, 362-8905 (PARK)

Know a Hong Kong movie addict who just got a DVD player? I mean, besides me? Hit the Bowery just north of Canal, where a string of gift stores sell hard-to-find titles at often startlingly low prices. (Sometimes the DVD section itself is a little hard to find, half-hidden behind a stock of padded brassieres and Hello Kitty pj's.) A recent Jet Li binge netted The Tai Chi Master ($15.95)—coincidentally, the last movie I saw at the defunct theater around the corner, c. 1993—and Last Hero in China ($8.50). The Chow Yun-Fat back catalog starts under $10, and there are usually sections devoted to directors and actors like Jackie Chan, Yuen Biao, Wong Kar-wai, and Maggie Cheung, Maggie Cheung, Maggie Cheung. (PARK)

Those seeking to put the Christ back in Christmas should visit Logos Book Store, with its sections devoted to saints, spirituality, and "C.S. Lewis & Friends." A slipcased six-volume set of the Narnian novelist's religious writings is $46. Infidels who prefer to remain outside the Judeo-Christian tradition need not go ungifted: Across the room from the Bibles (and the $34.95 leather-bound Urantia book) stand a few cases of choice literary fiction, prominent among them several J.G. Ballard novels and the reprint of Dhalgren, Samuel R. Delany's polymorphously perverse sci-fi epic. What would Jesus do? 1575 York Avenue, 517-7292 (PARK)

A gift giver without several C-notes to burn can still find satisfaction at the august Argosy Book Store & Gallery, from reasonably priced vintage editions by the usual suspects (Edgar Rice Burroughs, Russian mystic P.D. Ouspensky) to the joys of the $10 print bin, which recently held a handsome likeness of the great (if not exactly handsome) Samuel Johnson's phiz. Your swimming buddy will enjoy an autograph of Esther Williams ($25), and a signed typescript by Maxwell Bodenheim is only $30—perfect for your ex-wife who's still writing her dissertation, "Maxwell Bodenheim, Genius Poet of Yesteryear." Marbleized endpapers are a steal at $2 per colorful sheet, though their usefulness remains obscure. Snap some up anyway, before Martha decides they'd look nice as origami egg-holders. 116 East 59th Street, 753-4455 (PARK)

In keeping with their devotion to European comic books, the owners of Kar'ikter painted the walls of this Prince Street gem in colors inspired by Tintin's underwater adventure "Red Rackham's Treasure." They have since expanded to chic objects seemingly inspired by cartoons, including Alessi's appealingly demented line of Italian household goods. Never before has sugar been dispensed from so cheerful—or legged—a space creature ($19), and the friendly lady robots who open bottles ($56) or grind pepper ($67) don't complain when you twist their heads to uncork the wine or season a salad. There's still plenty of Astérix, Babar, and Tintin stuff (if you have $2200, you can buy a huge replica of the red-and-white checkered rocket ship that transported the Belgian reporter and his cracked gang to the moon), but there are also items like a rubber radio that comes in fuchsia or apple green ($55) and a Lomographics camera that prints a strip of four images per each shot in a standard roll of film ($55). Five dollars and ninety-five cents gets you a Lucite ring with a snow dome and glitter dancing in water, or one with a tiny compass leading you back to 19 Prince Street, 274-1966. (MCPHERSON)

Pearl River, the Canal Street department store, is a good source for slippers and Chinese silk jackets, but the staggering variety of its inventory is its real lure. A vintage-looking purse-size tin of cold cream is only $2.20 and perfectly complements a set of bright cotton dish towels printed with "Good Morning" in English and Chinese. Of course, you'll also want Ferrero Rocher chocolates, cunning miniature folding scissors made of stainless steel ($1.95), and Chinese honey packed in reusable eight-ounce drinking glasses ($1.99). One floor up, women's pajamas made of silk and spun rayon manage to be at once naive and provocative. Behind them, the enormous brim of a chic retro sun hat ($3.95) collapses neatly into a saucer-sized case for easy packing in a stocking. 277 Canal Street, 431-4770 (MCPHERSON)

Paul Frank's Sputnik-era monkey peers from notebooks, socks, and a particularly hip retro flight bag ($60) at Alphabets, an eccentric gift emporium without peer. In addition to the simian, there's what looks like the complete line of Hello Kitty purses and pencil boxes, a foot-long Pez dispenser with compatible candy pellets ($22.95), and a Clinton family paper-doll book ($8.95). (First mother Virginia Clinton Kelly remains clothed in a leather motorcycle jacket; the other three are half-naked, awaiting your sartorial instructions.) Retro toys include Gumby, Pokey, Mr. Potato Head, and the chemical wonderland Magic Garden ($6.95), but Alphabets also offers actual adult gifts. Tell Santa that what you really want is the stunning, stainless steel Tokyo Bay watch designed to be strapped to your wrist with what appears to be a high-tech Band-Aid ($65). 47 Greenwich Avenue, 229-2966 (MCPHERSON)

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