"Literary Life" in Grand Rapids

I know that I sometimes whine about how thoroughly midwestern Grand Rapids can sometimes be. Yesterday morning I was once again beset by self-pity, feeling exiled in a cultural backwater, when I discovered that neither Waltz with Bashir nor Revolutionary Road were playing in a single cinema in the Grand Rapids area. (You must read, by the way, James Wood's stunning piece of criticism on Yates in the recent New Yorker.) Having lived in Los Angeles for a few years, I got used to movies being "open in select theaters" just meaning, "open in the theater around the corner." Turns out--surprise, surprise--that Grand Rapids was not "selected."

But also as per usual, my wannabe-Manhattanite, cold snobbishness was gradually thawed through the day. While reading and working at Common Ground, I grinned to myself when I noticed a fellow patron reading Saul Bellow's Herzog. This was then capped with a wonderful evening at one of my new favorite spaces in Grand Rapids: the "Literary Life" Bookstore at the corner of Wealthy & Eastern, within walking distance from my house.

Deanna and I finally "discovered" Literary Life before Christmas. While it's been on our radar, I'm embarrassed to say I never made it inside until just last month. What a wonderful literary oasis! I immediately ended up in a back corner of the store that was loaded with books to sustain a writing life, then migrated into a rich poetry section, and only teased myself with the fiction shelves that looked so different from the chain store offerings. All of this clearly demonstrated a staff that knows what matters in the world of literature, poetry, and writing.

And last night was the beginning of a new Literary Life tradition: "Third Thursdays" will feature local artists and writers in a casual venue, enjoying coffee and LitLife's fabulous selection of teas. (The Harney & Sons "Paris" blend found tastebuds I didn't know I had before.) The opening act was the Kilpatricks, a wife/husband duo whose acoustic sound was somewhere between folk and a kind of "blues." (Great covers of Belinda Carlisle and Leonard Cohen/Jeff Buckley's "Broken Hallelujah." I'd love to hear Amber cover Rosie Thomas.) While listening, and afterwards, we could browse the shelves and I was once again impressed: somehow I got locked in the Ws (oh yeah, I was looking for Yates) and found a trove of David Foster Wallace and Evelyn Waugh. Hallelujah, indeed.

In short, Literary Life helps me to imagine how one might sustain a "literary life" right here in Grand Rapids.