Aaliya's Books

Aaliya's Books

TRAVEL BY BOOKSTORE: CONVERSATIONS WITH INDEPENDENT BOOKSTORES NEAR & FAR

On any given night at Aaliya's, a Beirut-based bookstore, you might encounter Gaelic dancing, a jazz quartet, or half-priced nightcaps. For Aaliya's founders, the space is as much community gathering point as it is bookstore: a place to celebrate creatives and the work they produce. Always on offer is a seasonal lunch or a snack from the café, a wide selection of drinks at the bar, and—of course—an excellently-chosen selection of English-language new and used books.

Librairie des Colonnes

Librairie des Colonnes

TRAVEL BY BOOKSTORE: CONVERSATIONS WITH INDEPENDENT BOOKSTORES NEAR & FAR

Located in Tangier, the Librairie des Colonnes is a Moroccan literary institution that has been known to attract major writers from all over the world, including Samuel Beckett, Truman Capote, and Tennessee Williams. Today, the bookstore remains a vital part of literary life in Morocco and beyond through not only the wide variety of books it offers in numerous languages, but also through its role as a publishing house and Nejma, its affiliated literary magazine.

In this feature, we speak with bookstore director Simon-Pierre Hamelin about the store’s past and present, and the work he’s doing now to create literary and cultural links between the global centers of Arabic publishing.

Bleak House Books

Bleak House Books

TRAVEL BY BOOKSTORE: CONVERSATIONS WITH INDEPENDENT BOOKSTORES NEAR & FAR

Founded in February 2017, Bleak House Books is the brainchild of husband and wife pair Albert Wan and Jenny Smith. Located in San Po Kong, Kowloon in Hong Kong, the bookshop offers visitors a carefully curated selection of new and used English language books (as well as vintage comics and sheet music!), and acts as a refuge for local and foreign booklovers alike. Books are available for purchase on the shop’s website, which also features striking art from Bleak House Books’ talented “Artist in Residence,” Vicky Nunn.

In this feature, we talk with co-owner Albert Wan about building community, promoting local authors, and what it really means to get the “Bleak House Books Treatment.”

Interview with Jeannie Vanasco

Interview with Jeannie Vanasco

In “Too Rushed,” your essay in our fourth issue, you write, “It’s 2018, and I’m not here to make a new argument: mental health patients are not more violent than the rest of the population.” Despite the fact that there is considerable research to support your argument, people continue to argue to the contrary, particularly in the wake of national tragedies caused by gun violence. Why do you think this is?

I know this has been said a lot, but: one of the only times that politicians discuss mental health is in the aftermath of a mass shooting. And they usually deliver the this is a mental health issue line in a really soft-spoken voice. It’s so irritating. They steer news coverage away from gun control. It’s not to say that mental health isn’t a factor. But the vast majority of people with mental illness are not violent.

Interview with Donika Kelly

Interview with Donika Kelly

I admire that in your poem, “A Poem to Remind Myself of the Natural Order of Things,” we aren’t quite sure who—or, I suppose “what”—the you is until the sixth line. I’m curious about why you structured the poem this way—why the “you” is examined before the reader is even sure what we are looking at?

I’ve been having lots of spontaneous conversations about octopuses (octopi? the octopus?) in the last few weeks, probably because when anyone mentions an octopus, I, like a 2nd grader armed with some facts, am eager to put what I know on the table. At any rate, a number of people have articulated an idea that the octopus is the closest thing we’ll get to an alien consciousness on Earth because they are so different from humans. This strikes me as odd—that a species native to the planet would be considered alien because its intelligence developed along a different line than our species, because it is so different from us. In a Western, Judeo-Christian framework, the world is scaled to the human as ideal, and that’s strange to me.

Interview with Hanif Abdurraqib

Interview with Hanif Abdurraqib

I’m very interested in your use of persona for your “Ghost of Marvin Gaye” series. How did your exploration of Gaye’s persona come about?

I found myself very interested in the afterlife of Gaye, and the way his particular type of death could lead to a set of unanswered questions in whatever the afterlife might look like. I was interested in kind of picking through those questions and trying to unravel them bit by bit. Marvin Gaye is so layered and complex, but it often feels like there's only room for one or two projections of him in the discussion. I wanted to place his ghost in the modern day, in hopes that I could shorten some distance between him and his many narratives.

Books Actually

Books Actually

TRAVEL BY BOOKSTORE: CONVERSATIONS WITH INDEPENDENT BOOKSTORES NEAR & FAR

Located in Singapore’s Tiong Bahru district, BooksActually is an independent bookstore that offers a plethora of options to engage with literature and the surrounding community: from local authors to best-sellers, from poetry readings to mini exhibitions, pop-up stores to book fairs, a boutique publishing house to a book vending machine. Established by Kenny Leck and Karen Wei in 2005, BooksActually has now become a significant advocate for Singapore’s literary culture.

Interview with Randall Mann

Interview with Randall Mann

Your poem in our new issue is an elegy for Michelle Boisseau, a poet we both admired a great deal, who died last fall of cancer. I remember her as fiercely smart and funny, warm and generous, and yet about as unsentimental as you can get. How did you know her, and what did she mean to you over the years?

I was drawn to Michelle the minute I met her, in a workshop in the mid-nineties. It was full of groaning male energy, and she was wry and funny and circumspect and female, and I was a young queer writer, seduced by surface but wildly unsure—so she was exactly the person I needed. I turned in a poem called "The Elements," and she said, with a serious half-smile, great, but where are the elements in this poem? She had a point. She took the piss out of poetry. She was also, and without pretension, always, always the smartest person in the room, the warmest and the coolest. I think I knew she was someone worth knowing, worth keeping, so we struck up a friendship that lasted over 20 years. I loved her very much, and I can hardly believe she’s gone; I don’t know what else to say.