Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Caravan Books 

[Photos culled from the CB website. Thanks!]

What is Ikebukuro's best kept bibliophilistic secret? Why, none other than Caravan Books, of course! Those who know me know well that I'm not one given to hyperbole (especially when it counts); Those who know me even better will observe that I can rarely seen employing superlatives with even an air nonchalance ...at least not outside of the bedroom. Those who know me best know better than to believe the previous statements.

With that being said, let me state unequivocally that Caravan Books is hands down THE best used English bookstore in Tokyo. Of course, I am, for the record, quite fickle. For example: I DO observe a strong distinction between say...a 'Miss Right' and a Miss 'Right Now'...but that's probably more than you care to know. But anyway, until something better comes along, I'll proudly stand by my opinion. If something better ever does come along, you'll be the first to know! I promise...

Last Saturday, after having not only my patchy mustache, but most of the flesh on my upper lip as well melted CLEAN off by some of the best Thai ramen to be had in Ikebukuro, I dropped by Caravan Books to pick up the following order...

Le Corbusier, Towards a New Architecture
Gide, The Immortalist
Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Bataille, Eroticism
Fruffaut, The Films in My Life
Stanislaw Lem, Hospital of the Transfiguration
Bret Easton Ellis, The Rules of Attraction
Nabokov, Lolita

NOTE: Those not privy to the pay-per-view version of my inermost thoughts might not be able to guess that this list is more or less the bastard son of a kind of aesthetic menage a trois that seems to have taken place recently in my mind (cheeper than checking into a love hotel) between a near-ancient reading list by the venerable Momus (peace be upon him!), a formidable yet yummy 'best 100 in translation' by the bookmongering kids at Counterpunch, and something SciFi-esque that Dr. Cook - my first college Mathematics professor - suggested to me.

...that the well-read and highly opinionated Jessica (staff) had readied for me. These two characteristics are usually found in inverse proportion to one another. Furthermore they are often not found in the presence of other, more important qualities, like 'amiable' (Jessica in possessed a plentitude of all three). Such persons are hard to find anywhere! This is especially true here Tokyo, where the general populace seem not to read anything of any import, and even fewer people have opinions regarding things with much gravity. I should make a special exception here by mentioning my friend and mental microninja Tadashi Usami, who is probably planning to blow up something somewhere, in protest of everything...in his mind. In any event, I made a mental note to pick dear Jessica's brain at a later date, out of deference to the non-English speaking acquaintance with whom I had come.

After being handed my bag of affordably-priced used books I ordered coffee for two (they have a cafe space), and my acquaintance and I sat down to chew the cud; Our impressions of the store were comparable. The images I suggested were that this was a veritable book-lover's Shangri-La, as tucked-away as it is rewarding to venture into. My companion suggested that this sort of place might be found in the opening scene of a Miyazaki animated film, such as 'Tonari no Totoro' or something out of The Hobbit. Imagine an older Japanese two story, wooden-frame home totally re-done inside in a way that might make you recall the interior of Bilbo's hobbit-hole. Ceiling to floor books, a 'totally concrete-free environment', quaintness-a-plenty, randomness, bits and pieces of Asian-inspired aesthetics in the nooks and crannies, 'slow life', thousands of books, 'tekitou-sa', etc., etc. According to the webpage, the good folks at Caravan even host literary events!

Such literary savoir vivre of this caliber is a rare treat to which I'll be treating myself to again in the very near future.

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