Wednesday night was alive with excitement, energy, and nostalgia.
My husband stayed home with the kids, and I ventured out on my own. I met a friend for dinner — a delectable meal void of macaroni and cheese, complemented with a cloth napkin, and paid for by my sweet friend. I ordered a glass of Pinot Noir, made by a vineyard who’s name I can’t remember, which came with an entry card for a contest the vineyard was sponsoring. I sipped my wine like I’d just come of age and filled out a form to win a new bike in December. I dotted my I’s with fervor. I felt lucky.
We skipped dessert for a more enticing event happening around the corner at the Boswell Book Company: Sherman Alexie, live and in person, speaking and reading.
The bookstore was packed, and the air electric. It was standing room only, so my friend and I weaved our way in and out of bodies to the back, where we found a niche near a bookshelf with a perfect view. I scanned the crowd: old, young, diverse. As I thought of the experience we were all about to embrace, cheers erupted and there he stood.
He spoke for an hour. He read poems from his new book, War Dances. Like in his writing, his words struck the air in an often humorous, raw, and poignant way.
He spoke with passion about the way technology is changing how we experience art. As we turn more and more towards digital and high-speed tools, the human aspect of art, whether it’s music or reading or writing, is filtered out little by little. Sherman Alexie described digitized books as sterile, robbing us of the anticipation found in a hand held object that draws us in and envelops our every sense: touch, sight, smell.
The smell of a bookstore, especially a used or antique bookstore, was a sensual image I could grasp well. I thought about the hidden stacks in the library of my alma mater, where I ventured one day in my early college years. I can’t remember the book I needed to borrow, but in my search I found a spiral staircase that took me down, down, down. The deeper I went, the older the books. It was a hidden treasure, a secret room of words, stories, and leather binding. Still today, I am drawn to antique books for the feel, the look, the character of the book itself. Years ago I bought an antique book written in French. I couldn’t read a word of it, but it didn’t matter. I bought it for the beauty of the cover and the endpaper.
“…War Dances takes us to the heart of what it means to be human. The new beginnings, successes, mistakes, and regrets that make up our daily lives….”
I love the tactile experience of reading a good book. In that moment when I pick up the book, I am completely present. I am thinking only of the title, the author, the cover, until my hands open to the first page and my eyes begin to read. Then, I fall into the story.
Sherman Alexie made a very strong impression.