Brews Through: Literati
Besides my mildly problematic addiction to coffee and maybe even more my addiction of actually going to coffee shops, I like writing this column because it forces me to think about place. What is “place” and its role in the way we perceive people, interact with space, document our experiences? I figure these abstract, impossibly rhetorical and pretentious questions are what I’ll be doing in grad school next year — here’s a test run, cheers.
I recently wrote a review for a performance by Nederlands Dans Theater and interviewed the artistic director. We spoke for about an hour in The Graduate hotel lobby, this choreographic genius and me, completely starstruck. He described the closing number of the triple bill, “Singulière Odyssée”, which is set in an art-deco European train station. He spoke about creating a dance with duets and partnering, relationships that tell a story without giving the whole story. That this was somewhat representative of life where you get a glimpse into someone else’s life without ever knowing the full story.
This got me thinking — coffee shops, airports, train stations, all the places we go to travel, to eat, to forget. I like to people-watch and catch myself eavesdropping, reading between the lines and filling in the blanks when I’m at coffee shops. It’s nostalgic in ways I can’t explain. It’s unfinished because we get such little information, but just enough to feel a part of something larger than ourselves, a part of a community.
A coffee shop, to me, is a window into the lives of people I would otherwise never interact with. I choose places, staying for hours on end, watching and listening, knowing that this feeling of uncertainty is where many of the best poets and novelists began their creative processes.
I think this is why I come to Literati. Above the Literati bookstore on East Washington, the coffee shop is a hub for writers, scientists, thinkers and lovers alike. I started coming to Literati the summer of my freshman year. I have a bad habit for wasting paycheck after paycheck on books that I could definitely rent from the library or borrow from professors for free. My parents got me a Kindle after paying $300 for my overweight luggage containing eight books for a three week dance intensive. From a logical perspective, I see the value of e-readers and appreciate their efficiency to some extent. But there’s something about flipping pages that defines a part of the reading experience. I’ve never been one to highlight, scribble in the margins, or even fold corners. My friends know I’m hesitant to lend books because my bookshelf is all unfolded, unmarked, unscathed. But that doesn’t mean I want to live paperless.
Literati Coffee sits above a bookstore which attracts readers of all types. The children’s books are on the second floor, right next to the espresso bar. Literati often brings in writers, local and nationally acclaimed, for readings and signings. The coffee shop houses many Michigan Daily reporters and columnists, myself included. I’ve had English professors advertise the events time and time again. Literati feels like a conduit of many sorts — connecting reader and writer, student and teacher, amateur and professional, person to person.
I’m convinced that a person is largely made up of their experiences. If reading is a highly condensed experience of another, then the more one reads, the greater one’s breadth of experience. Maybe it’s pretentious, but I find it impossible to be “worldly” or “empathetic” without having read the literature that is deeply embedded in our culture.
“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies…the man who never reads lives only one,” George R.R. Martin said. I don’t usually like inspirational quotes because I feel like it’s a cop-out, but this is simply the truth.
Literati is a bookstore, primarily. They sell coffee and fresh pastries which makes it the perfect marriage — it’s delicious intellect. I choose Literati because I like to be surrounded by literature and espresso. I like the crowd it attracts and the way it makes me feel. The baristas are friendly and fun, well-spoken, what you’d expect from a place like this. It’s slightly disappointing that the coffee shop is now so popular that it’s hard to get a table on the weekends without coming when the doors open at 10:00 a.m. But I will say it’s worth it.
This place has been a passage, a train station, a launch pad for me. For the last four years, I have come to Literati to read and to write. It has seen me change, fall in and out of love, realize my passion for writing and healthcare, shape my future. It’s a place I can’t wait to come back to meet up with past professors, catch up with old friends, maybe my own book reading in the far future. It’s slowly dawning on me that I will be graduating, leaving Ann Arbor, and moving onto a new chapter of my life. I don’t know who, if anyone, reads this page in the Statement that I get to fill every other week, but thank you. I hope that if anything, you get to find places like this feel at home, to think, feel, and process the ever-changing world we so temporarily occupy.