Friday, December 24, 2010

A couple months ago, on my way back from UBC, I stopped into Kitsilano to check out the recently opened Sitka Books & Art -- as curious about the “Art” part as I was about the larger store (a union of former Duthie’s employees and the fellow who started Book Warehouse). The sun was out, and the shop, which faces south, was filled with light, a small table of crafty knick knacks glistening in the window.

I picked up a number of books that day, one of which was Keith Richards’s Life, a know-it-all title if ever there was one.

Although only a hundred pages in I can report that Richards’s Life is faithful to the voice we hear when its author appears on television or the internet, a combination of aw-shucks modesty and fuck-'em dismissals, always charming, full of fun, though nowhere near the read of another music legend, Bob Dylan.

I was late getting to Dylan’s bio. However, once in, I was hooked. As someone who appreciates North American folk music, I know something of the world Dylan describes -- but not the details. If Richards’s book is laughs and attitude, with equal parts British reserve, Dylan’s book is unexpected honesty and understated insight. I love it.

Below is a paragraph from Dylan’s Chronicles Part One -- the contents of a room in a friend’s Greenwich Village apartment. Reading it I am reminded of another early-60s bricoleur, Vancouver’s Al Neil, someone Sitka Books & Art might consider giving window space to if their deal with the Craft Council were to expire.

“There was other stuff in the room, other delights. A Remington typewriter, the neck piece of a saxophone with a swan-like curve, aluminum constructed field glasses covered in Moroccan leather, things to marvel over – a little machine that put out four volts, a small Mohawk tape recorder, odd photos, one of Florence Nightingale with a pet owl on her shoulder, novelty postcards – a picture postcard of California wtih a palm tree.”

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