There comes a time in the life of a modern city where it begins to grow up—literally. Santiago, the capital of Chile, has been going through a tremendous growth spurt since its economic boom of the mid 1990s. It happened fast. In just a few years, single family homes all over the city…
Just catching up on my 99% Invisibles, and this episode, about a sneaky Chilean poet who’s in charge of naming new high-rise buildings, is so wonderful.
Produced by author Daniel Alarcón, whose name I recognized in the past and whose name I will now not forget, and featuring a quick shout out to Bolaño in the intro.
I’ll offer my own case study. While I was browsing the shelves last week, waiting for Boukall to close up shop so we could do our interview, two teenage girls approached the counter in fancy dresses. It turned out they were about to graduate junior high, and were in fact on their way to graduation.
So there you have it: the Untitled Bookshop attracts the kind of person who’ll risk being late to their own grad, so long as they can stop in and pick up a few paperbacks. As customer bases go, you could do much, much worse.
This week is the launch of a new series I’ll be writing over the next seven weeks, profiling some of the vital bookstores still standing in Edmonton. We’ve suffered some bad losses in the past year. But the death-of-the-bookstore story has been written many times; I wanted to write about the life of the bookstore, in whatever form that may take.
First up is the Untitled Bookshop, easily the best-curated used bookstore in the city.
Building a Legacy clearly outlines how the Old Strathcona Foundation was created in response to a bone-headed idea to build a freeway through the historic district.
But it’s just as important to be honest about those battles we lost, the landmarks that were short-sightedly torn down, and the junk that was erected in their places. A definitive book on this subject would document the junk, too—if not to justify it, then at least to admit that it exists, and to inspire us to do better.
In last Friday’s column, what started as an innocuous review of a coffee-table book about Edmonton architecture turned into—something bigger. Turns out I have strong feelings about the way this city engages with its ugly past. (I also have strong feelings about clinker brick. Sweet, sweet clinker brick.)
“Some people say, ‘I just sit down and write.’ But if you don’t know whether you’re building a birdhouse or a deck—just driving nails into boards—I don’t think it’s going to be very good, whatever it is.”
In this week’s column, I interviewed IMPAC award winner Alistair MacLeod, who’s in town for an event this evening.
“The first time I read it, I was in school, and I remember being confounded by two facts: 1) That it was originally published in 1941 and 2) That it first appeared in Irish as An Béal Bocht. And if there was one thing that was less funny than anything written before, say, 1975, it was anything that was written in Irish.”
It’s true: this book is unbelievably funny. It’s also a flaming, barbed, poison-dipped arrow through the heart of Irish hard-scrabble sentimentality. Every country on the planet should hope for such a skewering.