Yonge Street Bookshop

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.

  1. They will only lose something beautiful Luke, unless you as their father fail to balance them. Yes, perhaps they will be accumulating books largely virtual come a certain place and time, but they will only have a value for the other if you instill it, and unless you yourself lose or part with all your library, I fail to see how this will take place. Perhaps they will be able to down load smorgas of readery, but if they are taught now, they will be fed with feelings of nostalgia to find rare books they can have a relationship with, their leaves holding their hands as much as their palms hold leaves, and hardly will books be cast aside for the next seventy years at least. They will down load surely, but I feel with their exposure from their father, they will only be down loading real gems, talented enough that the prospecting is not reliable, and the wait intolerable. They maybe the first generation to be word junkies without the actual pertinence of time and delay to cover up the illusion of competency and insular control!

  2. d said:

    I had a good day in a used book store as well:

    Pnin by Nabokov
    Nadja by Breton
    On the Kabbalah and Its Symbolism by Scholem
    Kaballah by Scholem

  3. d said:

    That should be “Kabbalah” with two b’s in the second title as well. Excuse me.

  4. Curtis,

    I agree that the culture of books is something that my children may learn from me, but it remains to be seen whether it will remain a large enough part of our wider culture that they will be able to wander down Young Street and find six different used bookstores, and there is little or nothing I can do about this cultural shift.

  5. d,

    That is a good day. I love Pnin, far more than Lolita. It is more subtle, more more insightful. Enjoy it.

  6. Alex Baran said:

    I believe the good citizens of Toronto spell the name of their main street “Yonge” Street. Governor Simcoe named the route in honor of the Secretary of War, Sir George Yonge, 5th Baronet.

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