Sunday, July 15, 2012

Chicago and the Closest I Get to Reading About Pythagoras...

Let's return to last Sunday, spent in the Wicker Park/Belmont Area of Chicago. It was a sunny, blousy day, perfect to wander in and out of establishments, while away the hours in book stores. The weird and appealing Quimby's Books, while only a few blocks from the Bongo Room on North Milwaukee, nevertheless gave opportunity to gawk at painted wrought iron fences, listen as The Cure's Fascination Street wafted from the open windows of a sleek, pointy townhouse that was all brushed metal, floor-to-ceiling window panes and neat second floor balcony spaces; and spot the cultural and political icons painted onto the neighboring wall.

More photos? More here.

Quimby's is the most independent of independents, with significant space granted to zines, alternative/underground publications, graphic novels and fetish materials; and while I appreciate it, I didn't go in expecting to buy very much myself.

But then I opened the cover of this oversize, lavishly illustrated graphic novel and fell into the middle of a conversation between a caged tiger and a monkey. The monkey was a bit secretive and bashful; and was reading a book; the tiger continued to reach out to him. The monkey said he felt a little anxious; his slumped posture conveyed despondency. "How long have you been here?" inquired the tiger. "Have they given you a name yet?"

"They just call me monkey."

"What's your name?"


 So, clearly I had to buy that. Euclid! His name was Euclid! Incidently, he was reading a book on Pythagorean theory. I'm sooooo glad for this purchase. There's a bombing by a terrorist faction of animal rights activists (who are themselves, animals). While people still have pets, and they are loved-but-lesser, the animals also talk. It's a sprawling work, is supposed to be one of nine; sometimes too heavy-handed, but nevertheless, fascinating and mysterious.

Check out The New York Time's take on the first graphic novel by one Adam Hines, here.

Or cut to the chase and read it here for free (lucky, lucky you), but I'd also say it's a lovely addition to one's bookcase.

Looking at the walls is also a good idea at Quimby's-- there was a Jay Ryan poster (nfs), which made me wish they had other Jay Ryan designs available there. Years ago, I had picked up a fantastic fake travel poster by Alana Bailey, as part of the now defunct Lady Dissident Chicago Travel Auxiliary series (at right). This time around, I was tempted by the alarming "Springtime in Pilsen," which was also sadly not for sale (but you may view it here).  Apparently she does her lettering using something called rubylith, which I am still a little unclear on.

Nice Chicagoist interview from 2009.

The other artist whose work I was quite happy to revisit: Nikki McClure. I bought a few notecards of her designs from Quimby's maybe 5 or 6 years ago (same trip as Thurber on the Couch) and they promptly took up residence on my fridge.
McClure Cards in upper left. Also, Mincing Mockingbird magnet and Karin Wagner Coron pastel landscape in middle
There was a fine array on the spinner, with more detailed linework, but the same sense focus on domesticity, food and food sources. Usually black and white, plus one other color: clean, with a nice, solid contrast with the areas of busier linework. All of the designs result from intricate paper cutting of a single layer. Whew! When the clerk showed me a children's book and a short recipe book with her illustrations, it fit together perfectly.  Her work is nourishing and quiet.

As you look at this composition of ravens in a tree: remind yourself -- cut from one sheet of paper. I snagged this one! Sadly, the darker Witness was not there.

The day didn't end on that note. We lugged our sacks back onto the L, siesta-ed, and emerged again for a late Sunday evening meal. But by that point, we were pretty tuckered out and already focused on the original reason for the trip: Monday morning's visit to the Chinese consulate. In theory this is all in order now -- I was told they'd send the visa in the mail this past Friday. So maybe I'll have it in my hot little hand, come Monday. Hard to believe it's all coming together, but in less than two weeks I'll be in the air for 14 and a half hours. And then there will be dizzying (and also deadlocked) traffic, dazzling lights, no clothes dryers, office spaces like the ones I already know and all manner of unexpected things. Unicorns. Or at least noodle shops and dim sum and older generations wearing pajamas on the street. Somehow the prospect of daytime pajama wearing is highly pleasing to me. Oh guidebook, I hope what you say is true.

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