Downtown Vancouver Library & Book Store Trip

Piling into a freezing bus at 9 am is not usually my ideal morning, but last Thursday, there was nothing I would rather do than drive downtown, skipping classes for the whole day and starting off my long weekend, not to mention that we were going to look at one of my favourite things: books!

 As you may have been able to guess, a primary objective on this trip was to buy or borrow books, but it wasn’t just that. I love to be surrounded by books, even if I don’t read them as often as I should. What’s more, the messy, disorganized chaos of literature made me feel right at home.

My learning intentions for this trip were fairly simple, and, honestly, not well thought out. My eminent person’s modest following does not exactly justify a book written about his life, and so I settled for reading books I would enjoy to hopefully increase my base skills in English to better write my speech, along with other components of the EP project. My word can tie into the idea of an authour writing a book rather nicely, as a novel is an easy way to take a glance into someone’s mind. A good novel is essentially a window through someone’s head to see their inner working, easily giving someone a feeling of eerie sonder. As an amateur writer, I know that many authours draw from experience to make their characters more realistic, and I know it’s always a strange feeling when you realize a character is going through the exact same thing as you are.

After a fairly boring trip there, I welcomed a change of view from the bus seat in front of me. Without much further ado, we were heading off to MacLeod’s Book Store,  a place I of such scale that I could never imagine.

Just the neighbourhood that the bookstore was in was interesting. A semi-vintage area with hipster shops everywhere, MacLeod’s didn’t seem any different. As we entered the store, I was shocked by the intoxicating smell of old pages, the small store packed to the brim with books, stacks on and off the shelves. I stood there for a moment, in total awe of the number of titles that could be fit in such a small store.

The shop seemed like more of a collection than a place where you could buy books, but there was a cash register at the cluttered counter, so I went ahead and started looking.

fraction of the mess/collection of books in MacLeod’s (and my back!)

I pulled out every title that interested me, and some that didn’t. I laughed thouroughly at a strange, 1920’s Avant Garde magazine, complete with awkward pictures of naked women forming the alphabet with their bodies, and image of addicts shooting up in black and white. I put the magazine away, and looked for something… less disturbing.

So of course my next find was an erotic guide to dating a vampire.

Few books can entertain an entire gossip of TALONS for a 45 minute bus-ride, but this book did the trick. Ryan K’s purchase was enjoyed by all, even if parts of it were even a little too disturbing for me. I eventually left the store after finding Queer Fear, a hilarious compilation of parody horror stories featuring gay vampires, zombies, and a homosexual version of the monster under your bed.

Another view of the book store – and my back (sidenote: the very location of the vampire book!)

I’d never been into a bookstore as packed as MacLeod’s and I felt very comfortable in the confined shelves and dead-end hallways. MacLeod’s was my highlight of the trip.

After taking a relieved breath in the outside that seemed like it stretched on infinitely (compared to MacLeod’s anyway), we headed towards the library. The walk was largely uneventful, the only thing I remember being the terrified eyes of Vancouver pedestrians as a blob of thirty teenagers lurched towards them – but isn’t that how it goes everywhere?

The next part of our day was the urban solo out front of the library. I wasn’t a huge fan of this, but I thought it was a good idea regardless. I found myself fascinated, and feeling sonder quite prominently. It’s fascinating to stumble across the idea that every suit with a cup of Starbucks actually has a life behind it. In a place as large, and as populated, as Vancouver, there are plenty of people to base your internal epiphany upon, and I couldn’t think of the idea of sonder enough.

Finally the library, which I, admittedly, didn’t enjoy as much as the book store. I have always like the artificial outdoor environment just out front of the VPL, and so I basked it in. There was some disappointment, like waiting half an hour for bubble-tea (that never came), or when the library didn’t have my book, but overall, I enjoyed the VPL well enough.

If I had to give our outing a theme, I think I would deem it as ‘accompanied isolation’ as I felt that we were really, alone together. It makes sense to me, anyway, since I feel a strange mixture of solitude and companionship with any good novel, regardless of whether I am around other people or not. And, since I was surrounded by literally hundreds of thousands books in just one day, I spent most of it in a mental silence, feeling muted (voluntarily) even when I was talking.

On our excursion, I think I learned a few things, so I’ll list them off in no particular order, along with the source of my newfound knowledge:

  • How to efficiently use flashbacks in fiction to provide more information on relationships (Children of Men from the VPL)
  • Occasionally forget structure and just explore (MacLeod’s)
  • Occasionally accept structure and just explore (VPL)
  • Come into situations with a decent idea of what you want, but don’t expect that idea to stay the same (The whole day)
  • How to make it work with a vampire (I’m sure you can guess)

Overall, I really enjoyed our trip downtown. With internet, video games, and NetFlix basically ruling my life, I read maybe one book every two months, which is unfortunate given how much I enjoy reading (if the power’s out). I’m glad I came to this trip, and I honestly feel like my already dangerously high hipster level has been raised at least twelve points.

At the the end of this ‘field study’, I leave you with this surprisingly beautiful photo of some concrete, glass, and a primary colour (taken by the talented Mr. Jackson).

One thought on “Downtown Vancouver Library & Book Store Trip

  1. Hi Lyle – excellent post! In addition to carrying on the TALONS collective noun – “gossip” – I can appreciate the benefit of experience in the life of a writer. The ability to share one’s experience as a story is something that may help us live peacefully with one another:

    “Earlier this month, a research paper was published in the journal Science which put forward evidence that social skills are improved by the reading of fiction—and specifically the high-end stuff: the 19th-century Russians, the European modernists, the contemporary prestige names. The experiment, conducted by psychologists Emanuele Castano and David Comer Kidd, found that the subjects who read extracts from literary novels, and then immediately afterward took tests measuring empathy, social perception, and emotional intelligence (looking at photos of people’s eyes and guessing what emotions they might be going through), performed significantly better on the tests than other subjects who read serious nonfiction or genre fiction. Their basic finding was that reading literary fiction, and literary fiction alone, temporarily enhances what’s known as Theory of Mind—the ability to imagine and understand the mental states of others.”

    (From this Slate article:

    I’m also grateful for having Googled the word “sonder,” which I doubt I’ve heard before. From Urban Dictionary (to save future readers the trouble…. ooh, *sonder*):

    “Briefly, the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own.”

    Is it any wonder many authors (and plenty of other creative types) have chosen urban environments to make their homes? How do you think this type of experience differs from one where an author might seek out solitude to engage his or her creativity?

    Thanks for a great reflection on the day (and a few of my pics)!

    Mr. J

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