I spent the afternoon in Toronto yesterday, which is not a horrible thing, so long as I do not have to drive into the city, and so long as I do not have to be anywhere in anything resembling a hurry. I arrived on the train just before lunch, got a hair cut, and still had about five hours before I was supposed to meet Mike Hoye, and David Eaves, and Dave Humphrey for dinner. I spent the time walking thirty blocks or so of Yonge Street, browsing six used bookstores along the way, and stopping occasionally to refill my coffee mug, which was not always as easy as you might expect, since I dislike chain coffee shops and will settle for nothing other than coffee that has been fairly traded in one way or another, and since there is apparently a lack of such coffee on Yonge Street, along with an utter absence of real bakeries, incidentally,which would in itself be sufficient reason foe me to live elsewhere. In any case, hot black coffee and fresh buttery baked goods aside, my time in Yonge Street’s bookshops was fruitful.
I found several books:
Michael Polanyi’s The Tacit Dimension;
Elias Canetti’s Auto-da-Fe;
Jean-Luc Nancy’s The Muses;
Emmanuel Levinas’ Alterity and Transcendence;
Emmanuel Levinas’ Humanism of the Other;
Emmanuel Levinas’ Entre Nous: Thing-of-the-Other; and
Martin Heidegger’s What is Called Thinking?
I also found a few documentaries:
Alex Gibney’s Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson;
Meg McLagan and Daria Sommers’ Lioness;
Scott Galloway and Brent Pierson’s A Man Named Pearl;
Katy Chevigny’s Election Day; and
Gary Weimberg and Catherine Ryan’s Soldiers of Conscience.
Interestingly, the conversation at dinner that night, between Dave and David and Mike and I, turned largely around the function of the printed book and of the digital text as forms for creating, publishing, reading, and archiving text, and it is strange for me to think that my experience yesterday is one that my children may never share. It is entirely possible that they will never need or want or even be able to have books in the way that I do, replacing the blocks that I walked and the shops that I browsed and the books that I purchased with a few moments of search and download on whatever digital interface has become standard for them. I admit this possibility, and I even admit the further possibility that this shift might reflect an advance according to some measure of efficiency, but I cannot help but feel that they will have lost something beautiful.