I already did my year-end blog post, but my usual podcast hosts haven’t, so here’s the podcast edition! We talk about all the movies, books, television shows, comics, anime and art gallery shows we enjoyed this year.
States of Mind I: The Farewells, Umberto Bocciano, 1911
There’s a very good chance that historians will remember 2016 as the year we tipped the flusher on the toilet, leading to a long spiral into oblivion. Between Brexit, the Great Celebrity Die-off and the recent American election we have plenty of reasons to cast worrying gazes at the future. I did not want to see the re-emergence of fascism in Europe, and now a party founded by Nazi sympathizers who looked with longing at the Vichy regime is considered a viable option to lead in France. Based on demographics, I can’t help but feel like the previous generation has decided to stomp on mine with a giant boot to the face one last time before letting go of the reins, but with the added sting that there might not be a planet to piece together again after this latest experiment in pursuing ideology over practical concerns.
Couple that with a quarter-life crisis and you have quite the anxious mix. (more…)
I don’t know where this is, but I want to go there.
I feel most at peace when surrounded by books. This isn’t much of a surprise. Either at school or at work, when I grew stressed I would unwind in used bookstores. Regular bookstores, even independent ones, are too clean, too orderly. I love libraries, but they too lack the messiness I crave. There’s nothing quite like close-packed shelves of ragged paperbacks shoved haphazardly together to set my mind at ease. That’s a feeling e-readers will never fulfil: the physical experience of the book, the weight of printed pages, printed words. The feeling that every book has another story attached to it, that of its previous owners, inscribed by fingerprints, cracked spines, smudges, fingerprints, mementos stuck between the pages. Add a cat or two to that mental impression, a set of musty soft chairs, and you achieve a perfect atmosphere of calm.
There’s another aspect: I can’t recall ever having any substantial conversations with the staff at a regular bookshop. Whereas staff at used ones have approached me to talk once they recognize my face (sometimes without knowing me at all, like when I wandered into a closing establishment in Edmonton during a two-week visit), and talk to me about my purchases–which authors they like, whether I snagged a volume they were looking at, etc. If you’ve listened to any of the podcasts here, you know I’m most comfortable talking about books or history, so it never feels awkward.
The only difficulty is browsing in a used bookstore for an hour or more, soaking in the good vibes, and not finding anything to buy. I always feel guilty leaving without a book, as if I owe the proprietors for just experiencing the place. Yet it was incomplete–the joy of discovery remains the goal of any customer. Finding something to read, to enjoy, to reread, over the course of years and years.
As I have little to nothing to say today, here’s a picture of my bookshelf (click to embiggen):
You can tell a lot about a person from his or her bookshelf. In my case, space is rather limited, and I have to cull my books often, so what’s left is almost pure, distilled me.
(Well, except for that copy of His Majesty’s Dragon hanging about, which I will dispose of shortly, and the Gormenghast trilogy, which I have so far proven unable to tackle due to falling asleep within the first ten pages).
I will note that I still have two boxes of books in Edmonton, while the majority of Polish books remain on another, smaller shelf.
And, as always, the bookshelf guardians remain on active duty: