Wednesday, March 29, 2017

A well-curated shelf


The English-language books on Taiwan available at Bookstore 1920s on Dihua Street

There are a few things that consistently soothe my jangled nerves: flannel pajamas, a purring cat (especially sitting or laying on me), a hot cup of good coffee - yes - coffee. Art projects, especially those that involve intense concentration on details, such as highly-detailed drawings or jewelry-making with small beads.

And books.

But not just any books - in my experience, it's an immediate lift to a hurt, melancholy soul to see a shelf of well-curated books on a subject one is passionate about.

It is oddly difficult to find books about Taiwan in Taiwan - the best selection at good prices can be found on Amazon, but in many cases the sellers don't ship internationally. or don't ship to Taiwan. There are books available at Camphor Press and on and a limited selection sold at the two largest eslite bookstores (I haven't really spent much time in the smaller ones), and of course there is always the wonderful Taiwan Store, But, in general the selection is limited and in some cases (especially at eslite) the most interesting titles are eschewed in favor of less engaging works.

So, when I walked into Bookstore 1920s with my friend Cahleen the other day, I was so happy to see - uplifted really - that although their section on books about Taiwan is small, it is beautifully, carefully curated by someone who knows what they're doing and cares about selling quality literature.

We own many of these books: Far From Formosa, Taiwan: A History of Agonies, Out of China and The Mapping of Taiwan. Each one is wonderful in its own way - the first for its old-timeyness, the second for its nationalist take on Taiwanese history, and the fourth for its gorgeous maps and illustrations: it's a gorgeous choice for a coffee table book (I haven't yet read Out of China). I walked out that day with that copy of Taipei: City of Displacements, because I haven't seen it anywhere else.

Social and political affairs have been rough this week, between learning that according to the Taiwanese government that I'm worthless and would be more valuable if I found Jesus and started teaching locals about how God hates gay people or something, and the atrocious comments made by Minister of Fuckstickery, Chiu Tai-san. Beyond wearing my favorite PJs and cuddling with my cat, I actually find my spirits lifted looking at this shelf.

In a world that doesn't care about Taiwan, and in Taiwan which doesn't think I'm worth dual citizenship, at least someone cares enough to compile a beautiful little collection of books with great attention to detail and quality. Small comfort in uncomfortable times.

No comments: