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March 19, 2009 - Image 11

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Thursday, March 19, 2009 - 3B

The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom Thursday, March19, 2009 - 3B

Finding a sense of
place in literature

Bear with me: A lot of undergrad-
uate students end up writing
theses to conclude the best four
years of our lives (college, supposedly).
But I completed
(and finally printed, .
bound and turned
in) my English the-
sis earlier this week,
and am only now
emerging from my
fog. The scruffy, KIMBERLY
unwashed types CHOU
wandering down
from Kerrytown or out of FedEx Kinko's
toward the bars Monday afternoon were
most likely not overenthusiastic students
getting a head start on St. Patrick's Day,
but members of the thesis cohort finally
emerging from the library and into the
true bliss of second-semester senior
year, blindly turning to the sunlight
after one last, brutal all-nighter, like the
cave dwellers of Plato's allegory.
Let me be indulgent with this column,
one last time. I am graduating soon,
from this university and from the Daily.
Don't worry. And OK, I'm not exactly
using this Plato allegory to its fullest
- I'm just borrowing its imagery. But
hopefully I'm not returning to the cave
of ignorance, or the cave-like basement
of Ambrosia for further line-editing of
hard copy drafts, anytime soon.
In my thesis, I explore how the par-
ticular socio-historical space that is
post-apartheid South Africa plays into
the narrative of J.M. Coetzee's novel
"Disgrace" as well as readers' volatile
reception of the novel in South Africa
and abroad.
"Disgrace" tells the story of a white
South African professor who, after hav-
ing an affair with a student (who can be
inferred to be non-white), loses his teach-
ing post and moves to his daughter's farm
in the country. Soon after he arrives, the
farm is attacked in a seemingly random
act of violence. Three black men rob the
house, assault the professor and gang-
rape the daughter. Since its publication
in 1999, discussion of the novel has been
dominated by issues of race and, more
specifically, accusations of racist writing,
with some of the strongest criticism of
the novel coming from Coetzee's South
African contemporaries.
I will spare you further detail about
my project, except to say that, perhaps
as an effect of spending so much time
preoccupied with the politics of place, I
found myself reading books for pleasure
that were also, in their own way, con-
cerned with place. Even if not dealing
with the politics of a particular time and
locale - implicitly or explicitly - the fic-
tion and non-fiction I've been drawn to

lately has made me rethink my concep-
tions of cities like New York, Beijing and
Los Angeles.
Some current favorites are below for
those of you also interested in writing
where the settingbecomes its own char-
acter (or also have abit more free read-
ing time at this point second semester.)
First up are "Miami," "Slouching
Towards Bethlehem" and essays on New
York and Los Angeles by Joan Didion
- Didion is a writer to whom I return
again and again, despite (or perhaps
because of) the demands she makes of
her readers by sharingthe most lovely
and uncomfortable moments of her
emotional life. Didion's prose is evoca-
tive enough that the anxiety of Howard
Hughes is palpable in just her descrip-
tion of his film'lot.
"Netherland," by Joseph O'Neill -
O'Neill's broken love letter to post-9/11
New York, told from the point of view
of a Dutch banker whose British wife
has (with their young son) left him and
his adopted city. There's more to it than
that (including cricket, the Chelsea
Hotel and childhood in The Hague), but
What happens
when a thesis leads
to a book list.
O'Neill's precise rationing of adjectives
in describing the commute into, out of
and around the boroughs and neighbor-
hoods by various modes of transporta-
tion was what won me over to a book I
wasn't prepared to love.
"Ask the Dust" by John Fante - For
those who love Charles Bukowski, a
writer whose work oozes L.A., note this:
Bukowski said of John Fante that he
"was my God." Written from the point
of view of Fante's alter ego, struggling
writer Arturo Bandini, the novel unveils
a particular experience of L.A. in the
1930s depictingthe professional and
romantic struggles of the protagonist.
"Beijing Coma" by Ma Jian - In his
fiction of a young man left in a coma
for 10 years afterbeingshot during the
crackdown on the student democracy
demonstrations in Tiananmen Square
in 1989, Ma Jian captures the sweaty
details of what went on in Beijing the
weeks before those photos of students in
the path of army tanks went around the
Chou desperately wanted to give this
column footnotes. Tell her to get out of
thesis mode at kimberch@umich.edu

Crazy Wisdom is a new age bookstore located on Main Street.
Wise beyond its years

Crazy Wisdom has
been a local staple
since 1982
Daily Arts Writer
Customers wait patiently out-
side until the doors are finally
unlocked at 11 a.m. One step into
Crazy Wisdom Bookstore & Tea
Room on Main Street and sooth-
ing tunes comfort the ears; the
scent of burning incense fills the
nose. Among the bookshelves
lie jewelry, candles, calendars,
incense andcards. Fromupstairs,
sounds of grinding coffee and
steaming milk invite custom-
ers to enjoy the quaint tearoom
above. Crazy Wisdom is a truly
Ann Arbor location whose new-
age offerings are losing their
outlandish feel in an increasingly
new age-accepting city.
While industries are mak-
ing organic living more acces-
sible to consumers, the gradual
shift toward holistic practices
is becoming a lucrative market.
Despite the increase in corporate
support for this lifestyle, the slow
change occurred thanks to local
businesses providing opportuni-
ties for new-age exploration even
when holistic practices were not
Originally opened in 1982,
Crazy Wisdom was bought by
current owners,husband and wife
Bill Zirinsky and Ruth Schekter,
in 1989. The shop moved to its
current Main Street location in
1999. The store exclusively hosts'
local events, provides holistic
products and publishes informa-
tion about holistic healing and
related topics through its journal

available at CrazyWisdom.net.
After 20 years of owning th
store, Zirinsky is aware of th
continual growth of the holisti
"One way to think of th:
business is the outgrowth of
40-year process that began i
the '60s," Zirinsky said. "When
was a student at U of M in 197
there was a small food co-op, b
ideas about organic food, eatin
whole grains - those were ne'
ideas in the society. Thirty-seve
years later, you have hundred
of Whole Foods supermarkei
around the country."
Zirinsky continued, "Essen
tially, what was new, what wa
kind of nascent, what was a seei
has now sprouted."
Crazy Wisdom describes itse
as "a bookstore about conscious
ness." This once seemed strang
But in a town like Ann Arbor an
in a society that's now unafrai
of trying out new ideas, Zirinsk
knows the store is no longer a
"out there" as it used to be.
"What we are selling herei
no longer new or avant-garde o
cutting edge. It has really sprea
throughout the society," Zirin
sky said. "We see new customer
all the time who are in the fairl
early stages of their exploring."
Although naturalistic idea
appear to be spreading through
out society, many students sti
don't know places like
Crazy Wisdom exist
within their commu-
nity - even when it's
the student presence
that allows these busi-
nesses to thrive.
"We are a quintes-
sentially Ann Arbor
institution that could
exist only probably in


major university towns around
the country," Zirinsky said. "I
think the reason is because in
a town like Ann Arbor you have
many, many people who are
interested in the kind of themes
that we are interested in."
Although Crazy Wisdom
has much to offer, Zirinsky and
Schekter understand, as Michi-
gan alums, how far away Main
Street feels for the student popu-
"I know that when I was a
student here at U of M, I didn't
have a car," Schekter said. "I did
have abike, but I didn't have that
much of a reason to come down
to Main Street. I wasn't on a
restaurant budget, and actually,
Main Street was much sleepier
than it is today. It felt far."
Realistically, it takes less time
to walk to Crazy Wisdom from
the Diag than it does to trek to
the Big House, but University
alum and local musician Alex
Greiner agrees that Crazy Wis-
dom's location proves to be a bit
of a hindrance for students.
"Crazy Wisdom is not terri-
bly well-known around campus,;
for though it be an ideal and
quaint study spot, it is quite a
hike from the Diag and the stu-
dent slums," Greiner said. "It is
well respected by locals, as well
as students who have ventured
so far north of Main Street's res-

taurant blocks."
Despite its distance, Main
Street is an important part of
the University's community. It
provides a location for venues
like The Ark. Included in this
scene is Crazy Wisdom, which is
often left untapped by students.
The store hosts numerous local
artists' readings in its tearoom,
providing an atmosphere unat-
tainable at most performance
"Crazy Wisdom is swim-
mingly cozy - earthy. With
the implied haze of incense in
the air, even the rare shriek of
steaming milk for a cappuccino
sounds muted and mellow,"
Greiner said. "The tearoom
offers artists a venue ripe for
storytelling with a snug audi-
ence, such as one might remem-
ber from their elementary
school librarian."
With such a diverse and com-
forting environment, Crazy
Wisdom rests as one of the land-
marks of true Ann Arbor culture.
It's more than just a bookstore or
teahouse; it's a community space
used by yogis, massage thera-
pists, psychics, artists and even
a local Alcoholics Anonymous
group. It's an atmosphere direct-
ly connected to the students
of Ann Arbor and the growing
organic-living craze conquering
the country.

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