Riverby Books Has Closed

I was walking back towards Eastern Market on Sunday and made a point of walking Riverby Books. I have been trying to restrain my book buying habit lately but it was on my way back (I’d been visiting some museums earlier) so why not?

And I saw… well, you can see the pictures.

It was never my favorite, partly because it was a little more expensive than other used bookstores but it had some wonderful rare books and its selection was high quality.

Seeing this left me feeling very melancholy. The bookstore was sold to new owners a year or so ago, so one hoped they would have kept it going.

The Metaphysical Club

What might be most interesting about The Metaphysical Club is that it purports to be about how figures like Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr, William James, Charles Pierce, and John Dewey (among others) created a new and modern American from the ashes of the Civil War, it manages to never explicate James’ nor Peirce’s nor Dewey’s philosophy nor that the first two are both considered the founders of American pragmatism (James association with it is mentioned once or twice; Pierce never) nor that Dewey’s has work might be connected to it over the course of three fourths of the book. Instead I found a series of frustrating threads, connecting Holmes to James and James to Peirce but not Peirce to Holmes in any meaningful sense. Supposed schools of thought like the Burlington transcendentalists (shouldn’t transcendentalist be capitalized, too, in this case, if it’s a legitimate, albeit no longer extant, school of American thought?) appear, are discussed in not insignificant length and then noted to be almost entirely meaningless to the topic and not influential at all. Jane Addams is the only woman noted beyond her relationship to a man and she gets briefly shoehorned into a lengthy rumination on Dewey’s Chicago.

With just over one hundred pages remaining (out of almost 450, not including end notes), there is finally a chapter entitled ‘Pragmatisms’ that returns us to Holmes and James and other characters I had almost forgot at this point.

I will concede that this chapter, if expanded upon, would make a wonderful book.

The chapters which follow, less so. New figures are briefly introduced and no one gets enough attention (poor Alain Locke).

As a former unionist, I appreciate Menand giving us some examples of union organizing and actions, but it’s just another example of the maddening lack of a coherent narrative. American Philosophy discussed many of the same (and many more disparate) thinkers while still managing to make it all seem tied together (thankfully, not by the author’s apparent odiousness).

Good Day – Book Art & Contemporary Political Art

I went into the office on a Sunday because I simply couldn’t believe that over the course of four and a half day holiday weekend I hadn’t received any work emails (I hadn’t but then again, our systems were being spotty and people claimed to have tried to send me documents).

Upon discovering that my fears were groundless and having already found parking downtown, I decided to spend a little flaneur time.

First, the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

The museum was not only free that day but featured a Book Art Festival, which is a fancy way of saying that young, creative types set up tables with their zines and chapbooks and letterpress creations.

Naturally, I bought five books. One of those books was a book of art reproductions created in the wake of Trump’s election which leads to my next fortuitous encounter.

While walking to Chinatown in search of noodles, I passed by a sign that pointed through a door and up some stairs to the Center for Contemporary Political Art.

Important, Too

So, I am still returning to Thomas Jefferson, this time with Ta-Nehisi Coates or, at least, with his recent congressional testimony on the issue of reparations. I am not going to go into that issue, which may represent a kind of cowardice on my part, but I do want to flag one line that I can’t shake:

That if Thomas Jefferson matters, so does Sally Hemings.

‘Station Eleven’ By Emily St. John Mandel

A loan from a friend from my D&D group who thought I’d like and I did.

Despite technically being sci fi (post apocalyptic dystopia), it most resembles the books I have read by Michael Ondaatje, especially in that plot is besides the point and perhaps describing it would do a disservice, especially since the piling up of unlikely coincidences (Ondaatje again) is too much out of context. Suffice to say, everything revolves around a talented and famous but sad sack actor who died before the world as we know it now ends in the book. The rest is all just marvelous writing.

‘Thomas Jefferson: The Art Of Power’ By Jon Meacham

Did I need to read another Jefferson book? Probably not. My fifth in the last two years, though the first traditional biography (the others being guided by conceits or else by Christopher Hitchens and so read to understand him rather than Jefferson).

No. What I need to do and what I have started to do is read Jefferson’s own writings.

It’s a good biography, don’t mistake me, but my interest is in his thinking and as the founder or spiritual godfather of a certain Americans intellectual tradition, not in his use of power. Though, it should be noted that I am not sure that this book actually does all that much to explain Jefferson’s view of the art of power. I think it was settled upon more because it was a cool title than a genuine descriptor of the book’s unique contribution. But an important though not unique note: …we see that Jefferson the practical politician was a more powerful persona than Jefferson the moral theorist. [478]

In terms of things I gained from the reading, I did appreciate hearing Meacham’s perspective, such as his defense of Jefferson’s behavior as governor of Virginia for a few years during the Revolution.

PS – Happy Father’s Day, everyone.