I’ve become quite the flâneuse in this city of mine. This afternoon, though, feeling the burning need to either get out of the apartment or start ripping things to shreds in isolated frustration, I ventured further west than I’d gone before, crossing bridges over rail yards, a river, and a highway to find myself right in the welcoming embrace of a fantastic bookstore I had no idea existed. And behold, reader: there on a bottom shelf was a volume by René Crevel, one of the many authors who’ve held a place on a long list of luminaries to check out ever since I devoured Cortázar’s Hopscotch (that brilliant invention, which, upon finishing, I flipped to page one and dove right back into all over again) about seven years ago.
As I explained, starry-eyed, to the cashier, I could have secured this thing ages hence by simply hopping onto Amazon and taking the easy path to gratification. But that’s the beauty of bookstore adventuring: not only coming across new authors and unexpected discoveries*, but also getting hit with that out-of-the-blue dose of joy at being confronted with something you’ve been looking for for years. That latter phenomenon has me suspecting that a book will often find you when the time is right– and the time was never more appropriate than it was today, when I was in desperate need of feeling that my life had some connection with, owned part of the same reality as, that displayed in Cortázar’s masterpiece. I know, I know: I’m never going to find the same atmosphere in an apple-cheeked American city that I would among one-time Argentine expats and their era-specific Left-Bank memories– but I did uncover a place that can put me in touch with what they read, the words that motivated, impressed, depressed, and/or inspired them.
Plus, I had a conversation with another human being, who, in addition to saving my sanity by agreeing to engage in some pleasantries over a financial transaction, now knows to watch out for me when I amble in, trying to balance the interests of my brain-heart-soul with that of my pocketbook.
Just two more days of this holiday seclusion to go. The bros across the hall and their periodic bellowing at something or other will surely keep me awake- and with that, I’ll try to wrap myself in my fantastic purchases** and kill a solid chunk of the next 48-plus hours.
* One of the best? A collection of Nietzsche’s aphorisms in German, in old script, found in November of 2005 in a little bookstore in Philadelphia– for $3.50. Every time I catch sight of it on my bookshelf, I feel lucky, and also remember events surrounding that bit of victory, among others:
a) Feeling sorry for the Liberty Bell, out there all alone and small, hoping to be seen as more than just its well-displayed fissure;
b) Getting catcalled by construction workers eating (no kidding) their philly cheese steak sandwiches, using the line, “Hey, doll!” Doll? It was so 1940s, I couldn’t really get offended.
** It’s a scene not remotely as salacious as Madonna’s “Material Girl” video, but more like something the Ur-Grandmother would embroider for placement over the fireplace: the picture of a reader bundled up in a quilt, if only the usual folksily entertaining caption could be made to fit the surrealist content of the featured book.