The Book That I Spoke With Best
This is how space begins, with words only, signs traced on the blank page.
book ought to change you. A good book is like an argument with your spouse with the expectation of makeup sex. When you find a book like this, you will never forget it and never leave it behind. It was 1999 and I was still in high school. I was dating a pretty young girl named Stephanie. I wasn’t reading as much as I had used to before high school, which was likely attributed to my stumbling upon the debaucherous and cathartic mixture of teenage drinking and sex. The times that I did read during this period were most often on the long train and bus ride to and from Stephanie’s house and mine. The only exception to this slump in reading was when I found a special book, a book that would change me almost completely. I recall, that spring, buying a used copy of Gorges Perec’s Species of Spaces and Other Stories published by Penguin. I read it and was hooked. I read it religiously that year, over and over. I likely read that book a total of twenty times. There was always something in it that kept calling me back to it.
Species of Spaces and Other Stories was a book I spoke with, with incredible intimacy. It was a conversation between Perec and myself. It was like reading a codex. We shared so many secrets together this book and I. This book gave me the gift of novel sight, it showed me how to look at things with new eyes.
We don’t think enough about staircases.
hen I was young I envisioned a writer who lived in the back of my closet which was placed beneath the staircase. In fact, I tore the wood paneling which separated my closet from the storage space off to create a makeshift door between the two spaces. I would hold long secret meetings, conversations, and seances with my imaginary author friend under the staircase. This space, which was home to our old worn shoes, winter clothing, ice skates, and Christmas decorations, became a very special space for me. It was a place of refuge. It wasn’t until I read Species of Spaces and Other Stories that I would realize who my imaginary author friend was: He was Perec of course!
My spaces are fragile: time is going to wear them away, to destory them … Space melts like sand runniing through one’s fingers. Time bears it away and leaves me only shapeless shreds.
verything is ephemeral. Perec taught me that. He taught me the brutal beauty of ephemerality. With him, I found my interest in the ever-changing nature of space. He allowed me to be both a spectator and an architect. He, for me, is not an idol (idolatry is murder), but a friend with whom I argue and talk with. Even to this day, when I read Species of Spaces our dialogue changes. The fragility of the spaces we have created together is not a bad thing; instead, this fragility allows us to negotiate and create new spaces. As architects, we design and build new spaces from the shreds the others left behind. In Perec, we can find the imaginative toolset we require for both constructing space and describing it. Understanding that we are not passive objects within space is what directed me toward a lifelong love affair with philosophy and geography. More than any other book I have spoken with, Species of Spaces has conveyed its wisdom in such a way that I have embodied it. And for this, I must thank Perec.
Space as inventory, space as invention … An idealized scene. Space as reassurance.
once took space for granted. It was just something that surrounded me. I was passive and docile within it. After reading Species of Spaces I not only saw space differently, but I saw it with different eyes. But what was important was that I wasn’t just seeing things, I was thinking about things. Perec gave me the language for this. He gave me a calculus for the itemization and description of space(s) and place(s) and the things and people that inhabit them; furthermore, he gave me the ideological toolset to understand, manipulate, and create spaces and environments (both in the physical and psychological senses). With this book, I found myself no longer surrounded by the uncertainty of space but reassured that I was a part of it. In this sense, Species of Spaces politicized me in a new way and allowed for me to accept myself as an active creator: a writer, a poet, an experimenter, a tinkerer, a philosopher, a geographer, an explorer, and an artist.