New York is a city I only had the chance to visit three times. However, each time I plan to spend a couple of hours at the Strand Bookstore, a popular spot among new yorkers and travellers as well. Thanks to my literature teacher who brought us there to do a beat generation tour in 2008, never expected it would mark my experience of the city that much. For this exercise, I will rely mostly on my memory and artefacts I carry with me—reminders of my last visit— in order to base my analysis.
As I mentioned in my first blog post, I choose this specific place because I want to escape and wander. Especially escape from the boiling city and friends accompanying me, this, for a short period of time. I am also seeking a place of my own, where no interruptions could alter my connection with the space and its overwhelming power, I might say. In his article, “How Library and Bookstores Became the New Community Centers”, Michael Scott talks about the creation of communities through bookstores and how it is possible to reinvent the purposes of these establishments. He mentions “these places are also filling another critical need in our communities, by providing a haven for those seeking a communal connection in an ever-more isolated world.” Even though his argument revolves around the fact that bookstores are loosing popularity because of online resources like Amazon, it is actually to find myself isolated that I visit these spaces. My engagement with the environment is focused on my own discoveries, reveries and so on.
Previously, I wrote “to me, the experience of the spatial environment is much more intellectual than physical”, however this is not true at all. Unfortunately, I assumed that my experience was a dualistic interaction with the space; as if my mind was separated from my physical perception and my intellect was somehow overtaking my senses. Jason Farman paraphrases Merleau-Ponty and explains how “our knowledge […] is gained through the sensory connection between our bodies and the world that surrounds us.” In fact, the Cartesian mind/body dualism implies a lot of negativity related to the body, as if it was the instrument of the mind. Accepting the intricate relation between the mind and the body allows me to depends my understanding of my visits to the Strand. Because the space is huge, and there is room to move fluidly, my body is not disturbed by physical interactions. I also have the freedom to pick any book and spend the time I need to immerse myself. These interactions are physical and allow my mind to rest and to be in a meditative state.
In order to reconnect with my previous stop at the Strand, I scanned some books that are key to my remembrance. I see them as being the “food for thought” I was looking for at that time.
Farman, Jason (2012). Mobile Interface Theory Ch. 2 “Mapping and Representations of Space” (35-55) London: Routledge.
Grosz, Elizabeth. (2005). Reconfiguring Bodies. In Mariam Fraser and Monica Greco (Eds.), The Body: A Reader (47-51). London: Routledge.