quinta-feira, 14 de maio de 2020

Version 2.010

I have spent the last few days slowly remembering "The Brief History of the Dead," the 2006 dystopic novel by Kevin Brockmeier. Many years ago, I bought an autographed copy at Nightbird Books, a newly opened bookstore in Fayetteville, AR, initially located near the mill.

To live up to its name, Nightbird Books had a very large birdcage, so one would browse books with the sound of chirping birds in the background and one would walk by the birdcage and spend some minutes observing the animals. The other unique thing about Nightbird Books was that it was going to be a wine bar as well, except the owner never got around to having the time to go to Little Rock and spend a whole day getting trained to obtain an alcohol license.

In 2006, La Maison des Tartes, one of my favorite bakeries and restaurants, was still open and one could visit the bookstore and walk up the parking lot and have a cup of coffee and a pastry. Two years later, the restaurant closed, but one of its founding members, who had already left, had opened a quaint little restaurant down the street called The Brick House Kitchen, which soon became my favorite place where to drag my friends to.

I recall having one of my most enjoyable meals there: a beef stew so tender served over a cauliflower purée that was utterly divine. I once asked the waitress what was the secret to the cauliflower purée being so unbelievably creamy and she replied that it was probably copious amounts of butter and thick cream. Oh, but it was so worth it!

After Nightbird Books moved to Dickson St. to occupy the building where the Ozark Mountain Smokehouse used to be -- my French conversation group often met at the Smokehouse on Wednesday mornings for breakfast, -- The Brick House Kitchen opened the BHK Café in the bookstore, but I always preferred the restaurant to the café. Alas, both only lasted a few more years.

At the end of last February, and after 14 years in business, Nightbird Books also closed. I believe the last time I had been to it was in October of 2013, when I visited Fayetteville to attend a friend's wedding, but I always enjoyed shopping there and am sorry that it no longer exists.

"The Brief History of the Dead" often comes to me mostly because of the idea of the in-between world, the world of the living-dead, those who are waiting to be forgotten by the living, so that they may enter the world of the dead, as the author mentions is the belief of many African societies. The book's action takes place in two worlds: ours, the world of the living, and the in-between world, the world of the living-dead; the latter's action is driven by a pandemic that has afflicted our world.

I had a hard time getting into the story, as fiction is a struggle for me, but once I was in, it was a page turner. The end did seem inevitable, but I could not help but feel tremendous disbelief that it had just finished like that.

Now, as we live through the pandemic, I feel disbelief as well. I feel like at some point during the last two months the universe took a wrong turn in the time-space continuum and we entered a universe that is almost make-believe. It is hard to accept a reality that so eerily feels like fiction.

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