Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Finding Anais

To salvage what was left of my Sunday (see previous entry), I decided to go with BIL to the airport to drop off SN1. I knew we were going through Chicago, and I was waiting for a "new found friend" to call me if we were having coffee. So I wanted to be "in the neighborhood" when he did. But he didn't.

Anyway, BIL and I went driving/walking around the city. Given it was not the best weather to walk around in, but it's not going to get better anytime soon. And I have been asking him where I could find old and used books. So we took this time to do a little in-law bonding, and he took me to some of the places he knew in town.

In the car, on the way over, he had lined up 3 places for us to check out:
North Ave, Evanston and somewhere else I forgot. We hit Myopic Books on North Ave. first, and we hit the jackpot!

As soon as we entered the door, I was in heaven... book heaven. When I imagine myself opening a bookstore/library/reading room/coffee place, this is what I see. I want to own one of these joints just so I could live in it, and read until my eyes pop out!

Right inside the door there's a display case which features some of their rare collections. On this night, they were featuring burlesque literature and coffee table books. On the counter top, a lot of loose old photos are on display along with a new book they were promoting entitled "
Who We Were, A Snapshot History of America". Obviously it was a photo-historical account of American life as recorded on film. Ergo, the photo display on the countertop. And if I really wanted to get it, I could have had all the authors sign a copy because they were all there that night. (Note to self: should I have gotten one anyway, just for the signatures? hmmm.)

One look at the whole store and I said out loud: "I could stay here all night". Even with its size, it was not intimidating nor imposing. It was what it was -- a 3-storey building of floor-to-ceiling shelves filled to overflowing with books. The shelves could not contain all of the books they had that all available space has been used for storage: table tops, the floor (except for a tiny strip to walk on), chairs, on top of the refrigerator, by the display windows, everywhere. I was in heaven!

If all of that wasn't beautiful enough, they mostly carry used books. Anyone who knows me knows that I do not buy brand new books. I find that old books have so much more personality. The personal history of the book adds to its value and its story, I think. I find it interesting whenever I see notes on the margins from someone who has already read the book before me. I get a glimps of what they were thinking while reading the exact same lines I was/would.

Browsing through the many titles, some of which I cannot see because they are too high up (too bad), I noticed there are many odds and ends tacked to the shelves that kind of re-inforce the book sections I was browsing through. By the MUSIC section I saw an old Metallica concert ticket from 2006; along the shelves of GEEK, there was a punched-out data card circa 1970's. It was so much like the stuff in
FOUND!, it almost gave me goose bumps.

A little FOUND! piece of my own -- an erotic bookmark tucked
between the pages of my newest Nin acquisition with a
very apt title.

When I walked in the door, I knew exactly who I was looking for. But like the last of a favorite chocolate, I wanted to save her for last. I took my time starting on the top floor, going through all the fiction books, through the classics of Dante Alighieri to the more modern take of Anthony Hecht. Then skipping the ground floor to look at the biographies and suspense/horror books in the basement.

An hour and some change later, because I had nothing else to look at and nothing else could hold my interest as much as what I came here for, I came back up to the ground floor. I ran my finger on the edge of the shleves as I passed, making my way to the "N" authors. I read each title and author on the spine of each book carefully, savoring the suspense (and maybe the disappointment, IF I don't find her). Finally, at the very bottom shelf, the first 7 books on my left read:
ANAIS NIN. I found her!

My first introduction to Anais Nin was when I picked up an interesting looking book, quite innocently enough -- *wink* -- at a very small used books tiangge back in college. It was a nondescript book, just a little bigger than a standard Post-It note. There were several of those small books, with black covers and stark writing for titles and I was intrigued. It turned out to be a series of excerpted works from her diaries --
erotic diaries.

To a college kid, erotic literature was just fancy porn. My dorm roomies and I had a laugh over it, but I was intrigued to find out that most of her work was published post-humously because they were too randy for her time. Learning that she started writing in the early 20's made me all the more impressed by how bold she was to write about her sensual experiences as honestly as she did.

Then a movie entitled Erotica: The Diary of Anais Nin came out. But for the life of me, I could not find it on
imbd or anywhere else. (I swear it exists; I have a clipping of a movie review back home.) She was primarily a diarist, writing more for herself than for anything else. Much of her writing for public consumption came later, and this was still separate from her personal journals. I must have been drawn to her because of this. I, too, have kept journals since I was young. And reading about her made me realize that I had so much to learn about writing.

My journal entries have always been so shallow. Even knowing that they are private and no one will ever read them without my permission, I hold back. So when I re-read some of my entries, I get confused with vague allusions, and forgotten codes that I used. I am, by no measure, heading the same path that Anais Nin took. I can never be as great, and I do not aspire it.

I only hope to find myself in my writing, the same way I found her in that bookstore.

0 side-notes: