It’s lit with Lindsay: Levitations

Aditi Raghunath and Alice Langford/Staff

(A quick note on the hauls: The list of the books in the beginning is a highlight reel of the books I’ve been reading that have really seized my attention since the last installment of this blog and books I’ve purchased recently. In general, nothing on the books will be readings for class — mostly so I don’t have to think about them, and neither will you.)

February haul:

  • “Tender Points” — Amy Berkowitz
  • “Levitations” — JH Phrydas
    (both from Timeless, Infinite Light, an Oakland-based small press)
  • “Cunt Norton” — Dodie Bellamy
    (found on sale at Moe’s Books)
  • “Reading Descartes Otherwise: Blind, Mad, Dreamy, and Bad” — Kyoo Lee
    (recommended and lent to me by a kind teacher)
  • “Reckoning With the Imagination: Wittgenstein and the Aesthetics of Literary Experience” — Charles Altieri
    (purchased on Amazon, currently reading while discussing with the author)
  • “The Living Method” — Sara Nicholson
    (stumbled upon at University Press Books, bought on a whim)

Recently, since moving back to Berkeley after winter break, I’ve been falling back into the swing of book-buying in the Bay Area. I’m from a strip-mall suburb near Orange County, so when I’m at home, most of my purchases are premeditated because most of my book-shopping is done on Amazon. There’s no “stumbling upon” a book and buying it on a whim when I personally have to enter my credit card number every time I want to buy something — instead, there’s nail-biting, rationalizing and resignation. On Amazon (for me, at least), there’s no sense of surprised delight, no love at first sight, no instant gratification, no covertly fingering the texture of the pages and no reading a newly-bought book on my way out of the bookstore. If you couldn’t tell: I’m bitter.

Berkeley’s bookstores are like a salt lick to me, an avid grazer. Even though I have enough to read already, and I really don’t have the funds to keep buying books, I keep finding myself ambling toward Moe’s Books, University Press Books, Half Price Books and Pegasus Books, hoping to find something good to bring home and add to the old stack. Even more tempting: Small Press Distribution in West Berkeley, which, for those who’ve never been, is basically a warehouse full of really beautiful, incredible books.

Just a couple of weeks ago, I visited a small press for the first time — Timeless, Infinite Light, based in the Oakland Omni — to interview the editors for a long-form piece I’m working on (keep an eye out for that). While I was there, I picked up a copy of “Tender Points” by Amy Berkowitz, which Timeless, Infinite Light recently published. Incidentally, I had met Berkowitz at the Omni just a few months ago, at Timeless, Infinite Light’s book release party for “Levitations,” but at the time I hadn’t yet read “Tender Points” and thus wasn’t appropriately blown away. This I regret.

Anyway, after coming back from Oakland, I read both “Tender Points” and “Levitations” in one sitting and walked around for the rest of the week a bit haunted by these books. I’d wake up in the morning with random sentences or phrases floating around in my skull, and I’d find myself muttering things or acting on whims influenced by what I’d read; it was kind of like being possessed by a pair of wonderful ghosts. Maybe that’s why I’ve been recommending these books willy-nilly — I knew there was something up with that.

But, on a more serious note, both “Tender Points” and “Levitations” really struck me as something new and fascinating to me partially because both think about the body, which is a topic I’ve been dodging for years now. Readers, I don’t want to overshare, but on the topic of bodies, I feel like I’ve recently, suddenly dislodged from the stuffy clot of reading that’s the high school literary canon to find myself floating around in a lymph node of the literary world — whatever that is. There’s so much living literature in Berkeley. Just last week, Bernadette Mayer gave a reading in Wheeler Hall’s Maude Fife Room, and it seemed like a whole mob of poets and critics I admire came to see it. And I came to see them. I have their books, which I bought in Berkeley bookshops. How’s that for circulation?

Lindsay Choi covers literature. Contact them at [email protected].