Last weekend, Justine and I hauled our sorry asses down to Chapters Southpoint to see ‘ol Mingus pimp the pink surprise known as Nunt. He had sold few books and was therefore sullen and angry. We decided it best to let him crack his knuckles and hit on married women in peace.
The big bookstore, the big chain. We’re taking a look around to see what’s what. The place is crawling with authors. Big book signing party. All these goddam books on the shelves. Far more books than anyone would have the time for or give a shit about. Justine and I wonder about how many of these precious words and chapters actually make it into someone’s home. Must be plenty, ‘cause Chapters is still open. Nonetheless, we comment on how there are too many bloody books in this world, and how Chapters has dealt a serious blow to the Canuck publishing industry.
Justine is talking to an earnest author whose pen name is only two letters different than her real name. The author mentions something about numerology and Justine nods politely. I’m looking around for the goddam poetry section, but all I can see are a lot of greige-inspired people walking around with Starbucks shit in hand, inquisitive dullness all over their faces. I can’t find the poetry section for love nor money in this consumer atrocity, so I walk up to Justine as she’s discussing the fine points of palm reading with the aforementioned author and say,
“Wheres the fuckin’ poetry in this place?”
I get a bunch of looks and dodgy glances, like I just pissed in the collective teapot. People look up nervously from books they’ll buy and never read. Turns out that the verse is stuffed in the corner of the joint; fittingly placed right beside the erotica section.
“So what, is poetry the slobbering drunk of the book selling world? Everyone knows about it, but no one wants to see it?”
Poetry should be the first thing you see when you walk into a book store. It should set you off like a bolt in your pants. It should be a delightful discomfort. This particular poetry section is less than adequate. Not a single volume of Neruda. A measly half a shelf dedicated to Canadian Poetry. Justine walks by and sees a book by Ted Hughes, he of Sylvia Plath fame/infamy, and promptly gives it/him the finger and snarls,
“That fucker would be nowhere if it weren’t for Plath.”
She presses her middle finger right up to the cover of the book, just so that Ted knows who’s calling him to the mat. I see a volume of Jim Morrison’s shite and give him the same treatment.
“Fuck you Morrison, you pretentious shithead junkie hack!”
All while giving the two barreled middle-finger salute to his book. And while I’m at it I give Bukowski a cuss and a finger ‘cause he’d like it and prefer it that way anyways. I also throw a finger at that Welsh bastard Dylan Thomas just for being so goddam good. Justine and I walk around the store for awhile, praising the authors we love and giving the finger to those we don’t, sometimes even pulling a volume from the shelf in order to give it the full raging bird. Its funny how a person can be defined as much by what they don’t like as by what they do. What we can’t stand says a lot about us, maybe more than we care to admit.
It is a fun exercise, but I’ve had enough of raging against books and authors that I know next to nothing about. There are plenty of bigger and bloodier battles to fight out there; plenty of bigger things to be angry about in this world. What the hell. A bookstore is the perfect place to start a revolution. I think I’ll borrow a gallon of diesel from Mingus (who always has a jerrycan on hand – just in case) and torch the poetry section. Then The Just and I will dance like little children on the ashes of the former literature. And then get a double skim decaf latte. To go.
StreetRag is an urban weblog and podcast about the city of Edmonton, which is located in the province of Alberta, Canada. It is authored by Edmonton-based writer, web advocate, and poet Michael Gravel and is updated frequently with written urban vignettes, amateurish photographs, deuteronomous audio material, barely coherent musings and rambling ecumenical treatises. StreetRag is a love letter to a lonely prairie burg struggling with its big city ambitions and small-town feel.
The city is Edmonton. It's a subject, not a passion. E-Town is almost universally derided by outsiders as an unlivable tundra wasteland populated by oil-hungry redneck conservatives who despise the arts. All of that is true. But it's not the whole story. There is beauty here. Dusty snowfalls. Brilliant summers. A stunning river valley. A diverse arts community that flourishes. It's a place that inspires a gray relationship - not all good, not all shitty. For that reason alone it is lovable, for what is life but a grayscale?