Do you ever feel you don’t belong?
My village has a newish charming bookstore, Speak Easy Books, I think the only official bookstore in town, though you can buy books at a couple of charitable outlets. It is tucked away in corner of a cluster of cabin-like shops. Some days ago I dropped in, introduced myself as a local artist and an author; I browsed and bought a book. The owner, a modern version of Marian the Librarian from the Music Man, and I discussed the possibility of a talk and carrying my books. Shortly after that I dropped off the four books I wrote during the Covid period, between them they have 35 4 1/2-5 star reviews on Amazon. I could tell from her body language that she really wanted to just give them back to me. To be fair, I was wearing a NOMOPOMO t-shirt. : )
Yesterday I went there to see what she decided about the books, and she explained that they were too political except for my color theory book. I don’t mention or refer to politics, though I do discuss the CIA’s involvement in art, and I used the word, propaganda, to discuss governments using art for their own agendas. But nowhere is there a discussion about political figures or parties. Everything in all four books is aesthetically driven. The book store does have a political section that is leftist leaning. She did make a funny segue about would Howard Roark carry books he didn’t agree with?
Political is the key word, as she used it about 25 times to discuss her criticism of my books. But she is also said they were beautifully printed, that I was an excellent writer, and a great painter. Going deeper into her political criticism she said I was critical of nihilism, that I hated some of the artists that I critiqued, I had a section on Aristotle’s Eudaemonia, that I quoted Ayn Rand, and that I had a chapter on Immanuel Kant. That just by including Rand quotes on aesthetics I was guilty of being political.
That afternoon I thought I might not be up-to-date on the meaning of political. But, I was using the term correctly define by dictionary.com, as relating to politics, parties, campaigns, public affairs of state, policies, or political rights. Nope, none of those concepts are in the books. So I turned to Urban dictionary, and there was definitely negative connotations: self-serving, hidden agendas, half-truths, deceptive, fake integrity, insincere, hyperbole, and too complicated. So was she basically calling me a poser from hell? I guarantee you that if I ever curated a bookstore I would have a wealth of opposing views, treating my customers with respect.
Suffice to say, she returned three of the books but kept Newberry Color Theory.
Within a day of this local bookstore partial rejection, the model, actress, and singer, Georgie Leahy and I visited the extraordinarily good and passionate sculptor Tanya Ragir. Tanya is featured in two of my books, and I had brought them along to give to her. This day was the 1-year anniversary of her beloved partner’s death. Tanya’s adult son was there, he is studying philosophy. A very likable, affectionate, and engaging young man. I was proud to show him the sections on Tanya, one of which opened Part Two of Pandora’s Box and Other Essays, Eudaemonia. Eudaemonia is Aristotle’s concept of happiness as an end in itself. I asked her son if he knew what Eudaemonia means, and with a flourish he rolled up his sleeve and showed me his forearm with “Eudaemonia” tattooed on it.
The moral, never try to belong, be true yourself, and wonderful moments will become yours to treasure forever.
Michael, Idyllwild, June 17, 2022
Frame of References:
Aristotle. The Nicomachean Ethics. https://oll.libertyfund.org/title/peters-the-nicomachean-ethics
Britannica. Eudaemonia. https://www.britannica.com/topic/eudaimonia
Kraut, Richard. Aristotle’s Ethics. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/aristotle-ethics/
Newberry, Michael. Amazon Author Page. https://www.amazon.com/Michael-Newberry/e/B08YKJ6R1V?ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vu00_taft_p1_i0
Reid, Calvin. The Line Between Speech and Censorship at Bookstores. https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/bookselling/article/74094-the-line-between-speech-and-censorship-at-bookstores.html