Books and Smart Friends and Bookstores

This will be kind of a rambling post, but there is the thread of a story here, so please keep with me…

I am lucky to have many talented friends. Artists, musicians, scholars, etc. Many of these friends come from the world of skateboarding, which attracts a lot of creative types (and some idiots too, but what doesn’t?).

I’m also lucky to have a really really smart wife, who’s working on a PhD in the Humanities. Because she is smart, and is involved in smart-people-stuff, I’ve met a lot of other really smart and interesting people from the wild world of academia — a world that I would otherwise not experience.

One of our friends is George Henson. George is a Spanish language instructor and is about to receive his PhD in Literary and Translation Studies. In other words, besides teaching Spanish, he’s a literary translator. Over the last few years, George has translated a number of great Spanish language authors, and recently scored massive points by being the first do to an English translation of any of the novels of Sergio Pitol, one of the most important living authors working in the Spanish language. The novel is The Art of Flight.

This is a big deal. The Dallas Observer interviewed George about his work. So cool!

Obviously I am really happy for our friend, who is finding a lot of much-deserved success and gaining a great reputation in his field.

So, a couple of weeks ago there was a book signing for this new translation at the Wild Detectives, which to my knowledge is the only independently owned bookstore in Dallas. George was there signing and speaking, as well as Dr. Ignacio Ruiz-Perez from UT-Arlington, who was a student of Pitol.

The Wild Detectives is such a great place. I wish it was closer to my neighborhood, but it is worth the trip to the Bishop Arts District in Oak Cliff. It’s a bookstore and coffee shop/bar in an old house. The book offerings are just fantastic. It’s not massive — but the book selection is well-curated, and seems to concentrate on smaller publishers. As a result, there isn’t a square foot of shelf space that doesn’t contain something fascinating to read. After the book signing event, I picked up a couple of new books. I could have filled a shopping cart. It’s not even the kind of stuff I’d normally think about reading, which is what makes it so great.

The store has a small area set aside for events like readings.

You just feel smarter walking into the place.

They also have Mexican Coca-Cola in a green glass bottle. So there you go. Case closed.

Which brings me to one final associated topic — Deep Vellum Publishing – the company that has published George’s translation of The Art of Flight. The company was started by a fellow named Will Evans. You can read about Deep Vellum’s mission here, so I won’t hack it up in this post. I’ll just say that Will started this thing from scratch, and aims to put Dallas on the literary map.

Allow me just descend to a lower rung of the intellectual ladder for a sentence, and say that these endeavors, the independent literature-loving bookstore and the small publisher, their DIY natures, their missions — are PUNK FUCKING ROCK. It takes energy to make good things like this happen. You have to get on it with damned near demonic power. Jerry Lee Lewis — young, sweating, destroying a piano’s keyboard with wild proto-rock abandon comes to mind.

So I’m looking forward to going back down there again, buying more books, drinking a Mexican Coke, and maybe consuming food with the skinny young hep-cats at one of the many eateries near the bookstore, which will all make me feel cooler and smarter for at least an afternoon.

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