The Book That I Spoke With Best

The Book That I Spoke With Best

This is how space begins, with words only, signs traced on the blank page.

Georges Perec

 

A

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.

Georges Perec

 

W

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.

Georges Perec

 

E

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.

Georges Perec

 

I

 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.