Why We Need You, Blue… Tom Agnotti at Bluestockings

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1. $1 for a cup o’ Joe. 2. Angotti standing behind his bookcover (not to scale).

Sitting front row, with a book authored by Fidel Castro to my left and murmurings from book buyers to my right, I knew I was in the welcoming-yet-active atmosphere of Bluestockings located at 172 Allen Street. If you haven’t been yet, you have to get there, it’s one of the best bookstores in the city. It’s a volunteer ran “bookstore, activist center, and free trade café” that’s occupied mostly by veterans of the occupy movement (see posters hanging from the ceiling).

Bluestockings usually features nonfiction but this time, fiction writer Tom Agnotti celebrated the premier of his newest story collection, Accidental Warriors and Battlefield Myths. His multi-genre short-story collection features illustrations by Sofia Vigas and, throughout the reading, the images were projected onto a nearby screen. The illustrations, which remind me slightly of Jamie Hewlett’s work, bookend each story with a haiku and foster a layered take to the collection.

1. Prereading buzz…

Angotti said he wrote for three reasons: his grandchildren, an impulse to do fiction, and a commitment to peace. The reading style was atypical and interesting. Rather than reading the first story or focusing on one long scene, he read from action to action over various stories, giving a taste of the collection without committing to traditional narrative. It fit in well with the poetry, illustrations, and espresso machine hisses in the background.

As I listened to stories of Cubans in Angola, Americans in Vietnam, and Peruvians in Honduras, I was reminded of a Marx analogy (being in radical bookstores will do such things): That class, not nationality, is the largest commonality between two peoples. In Angotti’s work, the championed laborer is the soldier. A class of people often delve into realms of violence — which is something Angotti does not treat lightly.

After the reading, a discussion emerged around all sorts of issues ranging from militarism, economics, and politics to suicide. At first I was a bit turned off by the discussion. What it had for passion was lacking in research and facts. As someone who takes veteran issues to heart, it was difficult to watch to rhetoric squash reason — but then I realized something that made me appreciate the space I was in and the people around me. Bookstores are still a place for people to gather, discuss, argue and, more importantly — have a voice. Not all bookstores are dried out plaster and pale green mega-stores. Nor are they all married to the academy and its practices. A bookstore can still be a place to listen, discuss, argue, and think. And you don’t need to apply, take out a loan, or be an expert. You just have be human. And you might just have to be at Bluestockings.

Angotti (word)-Cloud: red, olive-tree, family

Bluestockings-Cloud: shelf, voice, projector

Accidental Warriors and Battlefield Myths

by Tom Angotti

Powells.com

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— Craig Moreau, author of Chelsea Boy, has just finished a book tour and is currently drinking a beer. He is interested in identity, democracy, and word-clouds.

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