Saturday, August 14, 2010

A Non-exhaustive Guide to Exhausting a Place, in Four Steps

"One overcast weekend in October 1974, Georges Perec set out in quest of the infraordinary*. . ."

So begins the jacket copy on the slim and elegant edition of Georges Perec's An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris just published by Wakefield Press (translated by Marc Lowenthal).

Perec's quest was a humble one, but fascinating despite - or more likely because of - that: to catalog everything that passed before his gaze as he perched at a cafe table for an entire weekend. He watched and noted each passing bus, the mysterious comings-and-goings of pigeons, debris floating in the breeze, deliverymen, church-goers, groups of tourists with cameras at the ready . . . everything within the limits of Perec's concentration finds its way into this delightful little book, whose contents reveal - in that magical way by which the whole proves more substantial than its parts - the workings of one of the great (and sadly under-recognized) writers of the 20th century.

Rather than attempting to exhaust the contents of the book by offering a synposis (for details, see Lily Hoang's review at HTMLGiant), I'll offer a quick guide (I'm off for the weekend in 5 minutes) to embarking on the same adventure yourself:

  1. Perec's attempt spanned three days, and in the process of exhausting a place, he exhausted himself. You might not have three days, but an hour should suffice.
  2. Find a suitable place to perch for whatever length of time you've allotted yourself, preferably by a cafe window, or on a stoop, a porch, a patch of grass, the library, a bookstore, the mall, the top of a hill. Any place works as long as you have a view of some sort of life.
  3. Be sure to be well-supplied: a notebook, a pencil, coffee, snacks. (If you're like me, snacks are the most important part of any undertaking, however taxing or non-taxing they may be.)
  4. Bring a sense of wonder: sure, it might sound boring to sit in the same spot for a certain length of time and note everything that passes, but you'll be surprised, I bet, by the number of common things you habitually overlook.


* Infraordinary being defined as "the humdrum, the nonevent, the everyday—'what happens,' as Perec put it, 'when nothing happens.'”

Thursday, August 12, 2010

We're Giving It Away

Not sure if y'all saw this story in the S.F. Chronicle today. Here's an excerpt:

San Francisco is an urban grid of 7 miles. But to author Rebecca Solnit, it is a place of limitless landmarks, treasures and meanings - teeming with butterfly habitats, queer sites, murder mysteries, World War II shipyards, blues clubs and Zen Buddhist centers. This fanciful interpretation of space is the subject of Solnit's forthcoming book Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas, co-created with a team of cartographers, artists and writers. The book is Solnit's visual tribute to the city she loves. But like everything she's done, it's original and intellectual. The 22 maps Solnit presents capture San Francisco's red/blue political terrain, its place in cinematic history and identity politics, and its double role as environmental hotbed and toxic polluter.

Now through December, SFMOMA is displaying (and selling) seven of the book's maps and hosting a series of events around them. In July, the "Monarchs and Queens" map was unveiled, which juxtaposes the habitats of local butterflies with the shifting locations of queer public space.

Green Apple is lucky enough to have been given a supply of these maps to give out for free, so stop by and ask for one while supplies last.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Walnut Creek Rock City

Ever wonder what's going on in Walnut Creek? Well I'm on top of it for you. Check this out: Unbound: A National Exhibition of Book Art. I stopped out there last week. Pretty nice. BART stops right by the gallery (well, a few blocks away), and the gallery itself only costs five bucks to get in. Well worth it for a bit of quiet afternoon entertainment. Plus when people are all like, "What have you been up to?" You can quaff your wine and say "Oh I finally got around to visiting that little gallery outside of the city. You know the one." And then walk away.

Seriously though, it's a fun show and it's nice to get out of the city once in a while. You'll get some reading done on the train too.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Top Shelf

In each Sunday's Book Review the San Francisco Chronicle runs a list of recommendations from local independent bookstores. This week, we offered some of our favorite selections. Check 'em out here.

And click here for an archive of past selections.