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Ruminations Of A Radio Therapist

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Celebrating The Word Bookshops ofAnn Arbor T hls writer, and the staff of AGENDA, would like to thank you for ■ exercising your natural and acquired ability to read printed words. If you ltve In Ann Arbor you live in a literary community; we spend more of our money in bookstores than nearly any other community in America. Last year I visited the St. Mark's shop in New York's East Village, and while I admired the fact that they have an entire section labeled "Anarchy," even despite the experience of wandering down among the fllthy concrete docks of Manhattan and purchasing a tattered paperbound Swinburne for a buck and a half from the hermit-like proprieter of a run-down warehouse book vault, all of this notwithstanding, I gotta say that Ann Arbor is a unique and healthy literary community, and one need not go searching elsewhere for the Word. Word. Didyouknowthatwhenyoung rappers are communicating, and an understanding has been reached , rather than saying "gotcha" or "I heard that," they simply say: "Word." Now that is beautiful. Optimism floods over me at this sign of the times. Yeah word. But much of that is the spoken word. I'm here to celébrate the word in ink, and our local sources of texts. Poet Ed Sanders, (whom you may remember as the loudest of the Fugs, a troupe of unhinged performance artists who surfaced in the mid-60s, singing songs like "Kill For Peace" and "Coca Cola Douche") , during his most recent Ann Arbor appearance, spoke glowingly of The Bookstores of Ann Arbor. If we are to be known for anything, let us be known for our bookstores. Our wonderful bookstores. Everybody say "Word." The first Ann Arbor bookstore I discovered was WoodenSpoon, tucked away on Fourth Avenue at Ann Street. In 1969 it was usually occupied by an interesting, slightly cross-eyed woman who was very patiënt with my 12-yearold enthusiasm. The only used book shop I had seen before was in Boston, and Wooden Spoon wasis so very relaxed by comparison. Boston was more severe. Still is. Ideally, you want to visit the Spoon during a thünderstorm, find a volume that's important to you, and hang out for awhile, listening to the ■ classical music the shopkeeper prefers. Then be sure and buy at least two books before you leave. Because WoodenSpoon is a precious place and should be supported regularly so that it endures. Then there was Centicore Books with locations on South University and on Maynard. No used books there, but some deep stacks of unusual and natlng cholees. I practlcally lived there. When the South U. branch turned into a Go Blue Shop, I carne closer than ever to commlttlng arson. The symbollsm was just too much for me. Arson Ís really a drag, so Instead I walted and watched the other shops come and go. Does anybody remember ClrcleBooks? Thls was entlrely devoted to Religión and the Occult, a cozy outlet nesüed upstalrs from what Ís now Jason's Ice Cream Parlour. I got my flrst snootful of Buddhlsm at Circle. Today we have Crazy Wisdom, on Fourth Ave. next to the Wlldflour Bakery, where books are dlsplayed with Art Objects and Strange Musical Instruments. To me lt seems as If Circle was a dress rehearsal for Crazy Wisdom. Every community needs lts Wisdom. Dawn Treader Ís a good Illustratlon of how different two locatlons can be. The South University branch is smaller and more splritually relaxing than the Liberty Street Treader. Both are outstanding shops, crammed wlth magnlflcent writIngs of every descriptlon. Often a simple stroll through either place wlll change your entlre psychological makeup. There's lots of special energy in there. One reason for the South University branch being so beatific is the presence of Nisi Shawl, whose Poetlc spirit grows like ivy among the shelves. Every bookstore carries a persona. This one glows. Years ago there was a dimlnutlve Englishman named David. His face is depicted on the wall at Liberty and State, along wlth Hesse (or maybe thafs George Orwell) , Anals Nin (or is it Virginia Woolf?) , Edgar Allen Poe and Woody Allen. Up the narrow stairs and you're in David 's Books. You'd better be ready to spend at least an hour in there. It's slightly anarchie and wonderfully diverse. (We apologize for the use of the word diverse, which is exclusive property of the University of Michigan) . Here is another study in relaxation. The people who staff David's Books are peculiarly laid back and seem almost Druldic. I get a similar awe when visiting the Kelsey Museum. West Side Books, across from the Old Town Bar on West Liberty, is another corner of the world unlike any other. Most used book stores have their share of uncommon tomes. West Side is dangerous to behold, even from outside, for the Windows display incredible relies that could cause a sensitive bibliophlle to hoek everythlng and invest. An Important stop for your periodlc book searches. Books In General, above Bivouac on State, has gigantic, elongated shelves full of excellent stuff, generally placed. The ambiguous section labeling actually enhances the contents, and one Is made to follow one's instincts. I found a copy of John Cage's 'Silence' for four and a half bucks; found it by accident, in accordance with the author's principies. Kaeidoscope Books & CoUectíbles, whlch lives in what used to be a steakhouse, next door to what used to be the State Theater, has a mind-boggling stash of hard-to-flnd books, with endless piles of antique oddlties stackedjusteverywhere. My favorite source of new books, or those still in print, is the famous Shaman Drum Bookshop at 3 13 South State, upstairs from the Continental Restaurant. This place has an lnventory so rich and stimulating that it nearly defies description. The Wall of Poetry by itself should be regarded as the geographic center of Ann Arbor. History becomes much less dreary of a subject when you have access to Shaman's spread. A major force in our literary scène. CommunttyNewscenter, nowwhittled down to one location, is a worthy franchise. After Words limits you to whatever the market has ejected, and that can amount to some tasty surprises; in fact, this place has quite a following. You never know what might appear on those shelves. The only reason I would go into Logos on South University would be for the children's department in the basement, which is a wonder. The Falllng Water boutique carries mostly Holistic and Self-Help books, although certain historical and literary gems have been spotted. This shop also has a falthful following. I remember being surprised that Borders is a franchise. You see, franchises don't usually have such a selection and an atmosphere. The recent remodeling which resulted in much of the Humanities being moved to the second floor was a jolt at first, but after the initial shock at seeing so many Computer and Business guides subsided, I leamed to mount the old escalator which they wisely grabbed and put to use, and now 1 can kneel at the poetry section upstairs where it's quieter anyway. There was quite a stir when rumors went around about the K-Mart Corporation's purchase of Borders. First I heard that Walden Books was buying it up. Then it was pointed out that K-Mart owns Walden already, and there's the source of the first rumor. Fear ran through the bookfiends of Ann Arbor; would the Corporation exert some oily influence on our beloved Borders? KMart refused to sell Magie Johnson's Safe Sex Handbook in their stores. (They also refuse to carry rolling papers). The real test occured when Madonna's latest experiment in mass-marketing, the Sex book, hit the market. K-Mart wisely declined to interfere, and I'm proud of them. I guess. As for Madonna, I'd rather not discuss her right now. But the people who work at Borders were wondering. Would a highly publicized erotic item bring the heat down from the K-Mart owners? It didn't. At least not yet. And really, iftheystartedto draw Unes, the works of the Marquis de Sade would suddenly be in Jeopardy all over again. As one employee put it, they'd be insane to mess with this successful bookstore. It's successful because it doesn't limit itself. That's why it ranks among these hallowed and well-loved Bookshops of Ann Arbor. May they never close.


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