By Fall Liberal Arts Student, Vuk Muyot.
Buenos Aires is one of the cities with the most libraries in the world. In the History and Literature course, we visited two very different bookstores in the Villa Crespo neighborhood with Professor Hernán Ronsino.
The first of the two bookstores we visited opened early specifically for us as we were given an explanation for how it operates and were allowed to ask questions in an open group forum. What drew my attention was, for sure, the man running the librería, Patricio, who guided us the entire way through. He fit the role of a librarian in the most perfect way possible, the organization of the bookstore came directly from his mind. The personalization of the shelves and arrangement of themes from the collection of paperbacks was obviously chosen by hand rather than by Dewey as I am more accustomed to. He explained to us that the collection of books that filled the living room-sized homey store were curated by him through various purchasing settings such as yard sales for the deceased or one dollar book bins across the city.
The best part of the tour was when on two occasions a person walked into the store from the street and asked whether he had a certain book and he replied to them in an instant, one having luck and the other sent out to continue their quest. My point being that he knew instantly whether the book they were looking for was one he had chosen and hadn’t yet been sold from the catalogue. After we were all given half an hour to peruse the different sections and ultimately chose a book to present to the group, I was surprised to learn that the novel I had chosen was the story for which Lost, the TV show, was based on. La Invención de Morel, of course, the credit for which it deserves was never presented to me during my two week inhalation of the show in middle school, but I am eager to take on the Argentinian story through the words of its author Adolfo Bioy Casares. One of the events I am most excited for in Buenos Aires is the corner party thrown by the bookstore once in a blue moon! I do not know what to expect but a party thrown by a library, please let me know when and where.
We then ventured a few blocks through the neighborhood to arrive in front of a residential row of houses and at the corner a trusty kiosko. Although Hernan told us we would be going to a libreria called Mi casa, I was naive to think it was a quaint, house themed bookstore modelling a living room vibe. A woman named Nurit opened the door and quite literally walked us through her home and sat us down to a delicious cup of Guaraná. Although I was overly distracted by what could have been the most adorably diabolical cat I have ever encountered, we sat down in the living room of a beautifully colored arrangement of art. What drew my attention initially was the collection of movies, the most notable being Birth of a Nation, only owned by film lovers. After a momentary merienda, we rose a book catalog loft which connected straight into her home and was an extension of her workspace. Never have I seen bookshelves arranged by publisher, let alone a set of books so colorful in my life. The loft overlooked a mini garden which was comfortably tranquil and added light to the space. Being shown a paperback regarding the gaucho and cow significance (which there is) in Argentina with the name Hernan was definitely the highlight for me in this libreria. I spent most of my time here sifting through her sock section (for which I am a fanatico of) that had different Argentinian authors and their quotes printed across the ankle. I quickly forgot as we were leaving that were still inside a residence and had to pass four home entrances to leave the main structure. What this experience did show me, other than two incredibly unique bookstores and the location for my next big cultural outing (bookstore blockparty), is how valid the statistic for Buenos Aires bookstores is. On almost every corner you can see a libreria filled with books and some of which remain publicly hidden in a perfect way.