Category Archives: Questioning You

The Traveler, Annie

We randomly stop people while they browse our shelves. We ask them questions. We share their answers with you.

***

Annie is tall. And when she walks in, the store darkens momentarily because not only is she tall, her body is clothed in deep, dark hues of every color you can imagine. She looks French. And, it turns out, she is French — complete with an Amelie bob and everything. And she’s beautiful. But not in a glamorous way. She’s beautiful in an I-just-bathed-in-the-creek-and-made-mud-pies-with-the-birds-while-deer-braided-my-hair kind of way.

*

Annie: What is blog? I see this word everywhere.

PoaB: [short explanation: a blog is…]

Annie: But who is reading this?

PoaB: Well, there are many kinds. Specifically ours is about life in a small bookstore. We inform people about books we like, tell stories, things like that. And people read it if they find it interesting and they don’t if it’s not.

Annie: So what do you want to speak about with me?

PoaB: We’ll get to the very large stack of books you’ve piled up on our counter in a moment. But first, tell me why you’re in Los Angeles.

Annie: Just to see.

PoaB: How long do you plan on staying?

Annie: No planning. I go when I see enough. When it makes me ill, I go.

PoaB: I take it you aren’t sick of it yet. I’m glad. Will you be flying back to Nice?

Annie: Maybe. Maybe I go to Brazil. My ex-husband’s mother is dying. Maybe I go see her before she die.

PoaB: Are you comfortable with  our readers knowing that?

Annie: I’m comfortable generally.

PoaB: So, you’ve never been to the States?

Annie: This is my first.

PoaB: Your English is almost accent-less.

Annie: I’ve had many American lovers. Are you comfortable with your readers knowing this?

PoaB: I, too, am comfortable generally.

Annie: And I read since I was a child. All English books. I love Henry James, Thomas Pynchon, Toni Morrison. I read Camus in English once and never read it again in French. You know? He is better in English. Sylvia Plath I loved.

PoaB: That’s quite a mixed group!

Annie: I just like good books.

PoaB: That’s what I always say when people ask me what kind of books we sell here. I answer, “the good kind.”

Annie: That’s a good answer. I think it’s very specific. There aren’t that much good books, actually.

PoaB: Can we go over and see what you’ve picked out today?

Annie: Maybe, for sure, I won’t read all. And they are so heavy. So if I don’t like page 20 I give book to someone who has no money to buy book. I have only one small suitcase.

PoaB: Anthropology of an American Girl. I think you’ll like this one. Role Models. Do you know his work?

Annie: No. I like the cover.

PoaB: He’s a filmmaker. Let’s see. Kristin Lavransdatter. You have no idea what you’re in for with this one. Big Machine. Have you heard anything about these books? Why did you pick them?

Annie: No. I read what it is about. I like it or not like it. Why must I hear about book before I buy?

[Here is where a silence ensues. Besides the fact that we have on our hands here a wanderer living for the moment, why don’t we buy books anymore with no pre-conceptions? When is the last time you picked up a book every aspect of which (title, author, etc.) was totally unfamiliar to you?]

PoaB: You need not. Anne Sexton. I love Sexton. I love every word she pushed out. Do you know, she was severely depressed and her therapist suggested she write poems to help her work through her tangle of emotions! So this is all therapy! Have you read anything by her?

Annie: Yes. Everything. I knew a man once who called me Mademoiselle Sexton for six months I know him. I read all her poems. This book is my favorite and I miss it so I will keep this with me and have two of the same book when I go home.

PoaB: Princess Noire. If God were a figure and if that figure were female, she’d look and sound like Nina Simone.

Annie: I’ve saw her in the last concert of her life. I was pregnant then and you’re right. You only say that to be funny maybe but she had this force and it was not human.

PoaB: I believe you.

Annie: And What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. You like this one, too?

PoaB: Actually, this happens to be my third favorite short story collection in any language.

Annie: You’re funny.

PoaB: I’m being serious. It is. Raymond Carver was a kind of man that’s disappearing.

Annie: In that case, very good for me I pick him!

PoaB: Yes. I think you’ve made some very appropriate choices. It’s a mixed group– just the way you like it.

Annie: You’re funny.

-Aida


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The Painter, Laura

We randomly stop people while they browse our shelves. We ask them questions. We share their answers with you.

___

Early morning. A woman, mid-30’s, (long blond hair, poncho, wind-worn, sweet face, ) comes in without returning my greeting and heads straight for the Non-Fiction section. She clearly wants to be left alone. But something tells me to disturb her anyway. She agrees to the interview for as long as the store remains empty and provided I don’t use her real name or take her picture. I agree to her conditions.

***

PoaB: Laura, what were you just looking at before I stopped you?

Laura: My hand was on John Waters’s Role Models, but I was looking at Zadie Smith’s Changing My Mind.

PoaB: And what were you thinking?

Laura: Honestly?

PoaB: Please.

Laura: I wasn’t thinking about either. [Laughs] I have this melody stuck in my head and I was trying for the millionth time today to figure out where it’s from, what it is.

PoaB: Will you hum it for me?

Laura: No. I can’t.

PoaB: That’s okay. Just thought I might be able to help. Why did you come into the bookstore today?

Laura: This is really embarrassing, but I haven’t read a book in like a year! I used to spend hours at the library when I was a kid and when I was in college I only hung out at bookstores. My husband and I got a divorce last year. I guess, that’s “my ex-husband and I” or whatever. And I haven’t done much since then–

PoaB: I’m sorry to hear that. Why did you stop reading? Wouldn’t the distraction, at least, have helped?

Laura: No, I didn’t want to be distracted. That was the point, I guess. I wanted nothing to distract me so I could see if I could stand to be alone with no other stories floating through me but my own. And now, I think, I miss books more than I miss him. Progress. [Smiles wearily]

PoaB: Well, this is a big decision, then, isn’t it? Your first book back from the… the abyss, the brink… your first book back.

Laura: I suppose so. I have no idea what I want. What to start with. I’ve missed so much. Maybe I’ll just start with what’s out now, this week. And just let the whole last year’s worth of books be lost to me.

PoaB: Oh, that sounds too poetic for any of our readers to believe you actually said it.

Laura: [Guffaws] No, I mean it. I almost feel like, if I ignored the books for that long, why should they be here for me now? That’s too weird. You’re right.

PoaB: No, it’s not weird. And the best part is, they will be here for you later if your feeling changes. Do you want something light or not-so-light that was just released?

Laura: Something dense. Something I’ll be tearing my hair out over. Do you know House of Leaves? That but not a novel.

PoaB: I loved House of Leaves— it’s one of my most cherished books because of all the writing inside it I was compelled to do. How about a book about math?

Laura: Lars wa– is a mathematician. What the —-! What is it?

PoaB: I haven’t read it myself and the release date is tomorrow, actually, but it’s called Here’s Looking at Euclid. How strange… I’m assuming that’s your ex?

Laura: Yeah. Yes, that’s what I want.

PoaB: What do you do?

Laura: Ha! I’m a painter. Was. Sort of am a painter. Yeah, I’m a painter. A painter and a mathematician. Isn’t there a novel like that?

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