Why Bookstores Are My Favorite Place in the World

Being a semi-immobile student at U of M, I rarely get the opportunity to branch out to the fantastical ‘real world’ off of this campus and bask in its awesomeness. Luckily, the opportunity came about this weekend. Where was it absolutely imperative that I make a stop at? Yes, my beloved and forever a staple, Barnes & Nobles Bookstore. There’s this really big one somewhere out in that real world that sits high in the sky and when you walk in there’s the hustle and bustle of readers, writers, coffee addicts, and pure happiness throughout the air. The books line all of their perfectly organized rows, (like in every B&N you come across…I don’t know why I’m being dramatic) and the opportunity to get lost in new worlds are endless.

There is just something about a great bookstore that really brings me true happiness. Is it the books? I love reading, but lately my Kindle is where I easily search and find my new conquests. Maybe it is the people? Young and old alike, meshing together to immerse themselves in literature, business, chit-chat, and music. Hmm,  I don’t think it’s just one thing I can pinpoint that makes bookstores my favorite place in the world. I think it’s a large concept that transcends to all that I am as a person.

Bookstores evoke my favorite parts of myself…in a store. Is that weird? I don’t care, it’s true. I enjoy reading really great books that I can escape into. Fall hopelessly into and work hard all day just so I can get the opportunity to fall back in and get lost again. Being surrounded by the latest and the greatest is one of the great pleasures of bookstores alike. Most carry classics that will always bring you peace, and the new ones they offer will definitely get your wheels turning. Back when I had my first job at 16 working in my local mall, the bookstore was my favorite stop every chance I got a break. I would grab the book that interested me of the moment, and read it every time I had that break until I finished it completely. The best part was I didn’t have to spend a dime because it is socially acceptable to consume the merchandise at a bookstore. Maybe that is the true reason why I love them so much…

Then there is the atmosphere. The way in which this structure (depending on how advanced this society gets) will never go out of style and there will always be at least one person who can appreciate it enough to walk in there. People are all around, doing their own thing and making the most of their shopping experience.

From what I mentioned before, I do fear of the impending way that these brick and mortar bookstores will change due to the advancement of technology in our society (Fahrenheit 451 moment anyone?). I am proponent of utilizing a digital reader for books, magazines and music. I will search Amazon and have the ability to go through my day without any physical or time-consuming interruptions. Yes, a lot of people lack the free leisure time to immerse themselves in bookstores to possibly buy nothing, but could entirely taking out the symbolic structure from society really be the next step? We have to have bookstores on our streets forever. They’re magical, inviting, safe, and fun. I guess we must wait and see what the future holds, but until then I will continue to cherish the time I get to spend in a great bookstore.


Virginia Woolf Tattoo

“we are the words; we are the music; we are the thing itself”

And so my body is tattooed (again).

Growing up in a religious culture that frowned upon tattoos, I was always hesitant if not judgmental but also intrigued when it came to people with tattoos. They looked dangerous, sinful, hip, and I loved people that wore their masochistic art like a manifesto for the world.

After coming to college and transforming into the magical being that I am now (*humble*), I now have four tattoos, although in my mind they are only two (since they are in pairs). My first two (“Yes.” and “the”) are a testament to my love for James Joyce (Ulysses and Finnegans Wake (Shem), respectively). My newest one, split between my two forearms, is a testament to my undying love for Virginia Woolf. The quote is from Sketch of the Past, which is her autobiographical/memoir essay that she wrote a few years before her death. It was written during the beginning of WWII where the entire world and her life started to deteriorate and fall utterly apart.

To me, the context and the quote itself are almost a summing up of my entire college career–this is why I got my tattoos a week before graduation, that, and I had to have it immediately.

There are moments for Woolf and I that we call moments of being. It can be an extraordinarily good or bad moment that shocks our reality into letting us know that we are alive. For Woolf, writing is a way to keep herself alive, mentally healthy, and meditating on life, existence, and reality. Something that I do with writing but also, more generally, thinking. She calls into existence a type of ontology that is foundational to reality itself (something I just wrote about in connection with Deleuze and Guattari). But, interestingly enough, she takes it all back by proclaiming, “But there is no Shakespeare, there is no Beethoven, certainly and emphatically there is no God.”

We are it. ‘We’ remains ambiguous, which is beautiful and perplexing and why I love Woolf’s identifications. We are language (which I take to be a later meditation on Lacan and psychoanalysis at large), we are the music (something that Deleuze and Guattari theorize about that has important metaphysical implications by destabilizing us), and we are the thing itself (and every philosopher rolls over in their grave because Woolf just layed down some truth).

For me, this quote means that we are it in the most positive way. We are transcendent, we are immanent, we are the best, we are the world, we are existence, we are it and that is beautiful and comforting and earth-shattering.

And it just so happens that this is my last blog for Arts,Ink. I start my rounds of graduation next Thursday and I’ve never felt more alive. Not because I’m graduating, not because of UofM, not because of any of this.

But ever since I was in 7th grade I was planning my college experience. I planned out college applications, future course plans for high school, course plans for college (that all fell through . . .). And I realized three days ago that I had just successfully completed and lived one of my longest dreams that I’ve ever had.

Every day now I try to remind myself that no matter how lost or sad I am that I am living my dream. I am living my form of happiness.

And today, April 25th, my favorite date, is a day that’s not too cold, not too hot, all you need is a light jacket, umbrella, Woolf tattoo, impending graduation, and being surrounded by existence, loved ones, and infinite poetry.

Writing to you all has been such a blessing, a treat, and something that I will always cherish. Thank you infinitely.

10 Reasons why Fitzgerald (not the president) Knows

So I read “The Great Gatsby” in 10th grade. I was 15, living in suburbia and confused about the major topics in the novel–racism and eugenics, gangster/mob culture, and perceiving reality (alcohol).
I loved it then. And I love it now. Rereading the book for my Visual Cultures of the Modern Novel class has been such a treat. I now get things that are going on in the novel that weren’t talked about in my high school class (everything is homoerotic). And I feel that Fitzgerald, in describing the 20’s, describes college and he KNOWS my interactions with the world.
1. Friday, Friday, Gotta Get Down on Friday:

Daisy: “I always watch for the longest day in the year and then miss it” (16). Friday should be the longest day of the week–a day I don’t have class, a day where I wake up and cope from watching Scandal with a workout, a day where I don’t leave my apartment until 9pm. But all of a sudden I wake up in a haze with the sun attacking my eyes and it’s Saturday. Boo hiss. Friday over.
2. Everyone’s stupid and everything hurts:

Tom: “He’s so dumb he doesn’t know he’s alive” (30). Tom gets few things besides racism, classism, sexism, ableism, and ageism. But the other thing he knows is that most people I interact with don’t know that they’re alive. “Woah, I’m white–what does that mean? I have privilege?” My response: “oh, another one of you non-alive folks.” Or those people who ask me if I’m dressed up in costume on Halloween (today!) and I’m in regular clothes (peacock earrings, harem pants, tie-dye shirt, neon coat, stilettos).  These non-alive people are worse than zombies and at least Tom (and I) call them out.
3. We’re all gonna die:

Myrtle:  “You can’t live forever, you can’t live forever” (40). She gets this whole mortal thing (and this being-unto-death thing). As the first(?) character to die, she gets the #yolo life. While I will hopefully live more than once, more than 5 is a bit much–Myrtle understands. I refuse to JUST #yolo, but I’m ok with dying after one too many.
4 . To be a freshman is to thirsty:

Nick: “I was one of the few guests who had actually been invited” (45). Everyone at Gatsby’s party just shows up. WHAT. Its like all those nasty freshman that appear out of nowhere, all wearing AP Government shirts or their greek life paraphernalia, that drink the whole keg and then flirt with literally everyone. It’s the best when you’re at a small house party and the freshman flock to show up, finding 15 people discussing cultural appropriation and some good speakers. Come at me, freshman!
5. I’m going to leave this gem hear:

Owl Eyes:  “I’ve been drunk for about a week now, and I thought it might sober me up to sit in a library” (50).
6. And this:

“‘Anyhow he gives large parties,’ said Jordan, changing the subject with an urban distaste for the concrete. ‘And I like large parties. They’re so intimate. At small parties there isn’t any privacy’” (54).

Young Lady: “‘[R]each me a rose, honey, and pour me a last drop into that there crystal glass’” (65).
8. Everyone is reckless:

Gatsby: “‘I tried very hard to die but I seemed to bear an enchanted life’” (70). Sometimes you are out until 5am, sometimes you are awake in the library until 5am with marker smudges all over your face, sometimes you drink 2 pots of coffee a day, sometimes you sleep 12 hours to cope, sometimes you eat only hummus, sometimes you j-walk like life isn’t real and its raining and you jump into a bush to avoid a car (unlike Myrtle). Everyone is so intense but if the world likes us, we live to see tomorrow.
9. People troll and derail pretty much everything.

Narrator: “The automatic quality of Gatsby’s answer set us all back at least another minute” (92).
10. Aesthetics are real. Everything is Campy.

Daisy: “‘They’re such beautiful shirts,’ she sobbed, her voice muffled in the thick folds. ‘It makes me sad because I’ve never seen such–such beautiful shirts before” (98).
The Great Gatsby might infuriate you. It might inspire you. It might make you nostalgic or make you happy that this century is not a teenager. But, either way, it gets some things. Gets them well.

The Rise and Fall of Picture Books

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then why don’t books have more of them?

Books that aren’t intended for fourth graders, I mean.  Seriously, in the early dating/infatuation phase of books and humanity, the uppercrust was obsessed with pictures books, which scholars refer to as “illuminated books”.

Just take a gander at some of these beauties from the early history of books, when they were codexes, barely out of their puberty papyrus phase….

This page is from the ‘Vienna Genesis’, which scholars date to mid-sixth century Syria.  It is a gorgeous  PURPLE dyed codex with silver writing.  It demonstrates how sixth century books were not merely illustrated, they were also color coded!   Purple meant that you were rich and brown meant that you had spilled beer on your book during the last round of Byzantine festivals.  This page shows the temptation of Joseph with that slut Potiphar’s wife, which landed him in prison :/  And then landed him in the position as Pharaoh’s go-to Grain Guy, which eventually led him to place a silver cup in one of his brother’s sacks (which is less weird than it sounds…).  If you don’t know the story, you should read it!  In terms of biblical narratives, it takes up thirteen chapters in the book of Genesis and sets up the conditions of the Israelites in Egypt which forms the kickass sequel to Genesis….the book of Exodus!!

But moving on in our history of awesome picture books….

Chi Rho Page from The Book of Kells
Chi Rho Page from 'The Book of Kells'

This is the ‘Chi Rho’ page (the two Greek letters that spell the nomina sacra for ‘Christ’) of the Book of Kells which dates to roughly 800 AD (or possibly earlier).  In addition to beautiful Chi Rho pages such as this, the entire work contains other similarly adorned pages full of animorphic figures and colorful Celtic interlace designs.

Jumping ahead six-hundred years, we stop upon a book of hours, which was a type of devotional book used by medieval Christians.  This one is from Valencia, but was most likely produced in a French workshop in the fifteenth century.

I have GOT to get me one of these!
"I have GOT to get me one of these!"

Jumping ahead three hundred years, we come upon the watercolor poetic works of William Blake, who was not merely a stellar poet and storyteller, but was also an excellent watercolor artist as well.

Poem and accompanying illustration for The Lamb from Blakes Songs of Innocence
Poem and accompanying illustration for 'The Lamb' from Blake's 'Songs of Innocence'

Yet another instance where illustration meshes with text in a beautiful way.

There are countless other instances of illustrated works throughout the history of manuscripts, print, and literature.  My charge to you (if you think you are currently creating the next great piece of literature) is to take the pictorial plunge and add illustrations!  We live in a visual culture.  And who knows?  Maybe now that we’re out of the prime age of watercolor and illuminated manuscripts, perhaps it’s time we started using vectors and programs like Photoshop to make our literature both intellectually and visually appealing again.