A monthly interview with Bolinas Library readers.
Stuart Chapman has been a Bolinas resident since 1976 by way of Hampton, VA, New York City, Cooper Union, Cal Arts, and Art School in Mexico. He is a songwriter, graphic designer, artist, and a long- time volunteer in the Bolinas Community. Stuart has contributed graphics and signage to the library as well as art work. Especially notable are the paintings of flying books installed on the wall above the circulation desk. Flying on this book is Lynn Murray, Bolinas librarian from 1973-2005.
Stuart is also one of the editors of the Bolinas Hearsay, and a former editor and contributor to Smithereens Press. Included in the Bolinas Library local collection are numerous books he has worked on and edited: Harmonic Convergence, The Book of Stu, The Peyote Clubhouse and Jim Carroll Days on the Mesa.
What are you reading now?
I had to laugh when you asked me this. Danielle Steel! Royal. It was thrust upon me by my friend, Steve Heilig, opens a new window. “You have to read this. It’s her latest!” Steve and I bonded over Daniel Steel when her book based in Bolinas came out. One Day at a Time, opens a new window. Coco Harrington is the main character. She inspired a song that I wrote, “Coco in Bobo.” (Can Coco live in a Bobo world? Pretty country for a big city girl.) It’s been at least ten years since I read One Day at a Time, so every ten years I check out Danielle Steel.
I’m also reading Telling Stories, Writing Songs, opens a new window, an album of Texas songwriters by Kathleen Hudson. Filling my head with songwriting makes it easier to write songs ‘cause everyone does it.’
Do you like to read paper or ebooks? Audio? Dvds?
I like real books, that is, paper. I don’t do much reading online. I love the feel of a paper book and being able to re-read. To me, paper books are far superior to digital.
I also like to make my own books; call them portfolios. Another thing that is fun to do with paper books is to redo them with collage etc. Altered books. Of course I only do this with books I find in the Free Box, opens a new window, never a library book.
Are you a browser in the library or do you use the catalog?
Actually both. Sometimes I am looking for a specific book and other times I like to wander through the library and see what strikes my interest. It's pretty interesting to see what is lurking on the shelves. I like the unexpected sometimes.
Do you have a favorite Genre?
Being an artist, I love books about artists and art making; mostly non-fiction: Design books and art books and books about songwriting. I normally don’t read much fiction. Here's a little story from the past: One time I was in the Bolinas Library when Kerry Livingston was the librarian there. I was perusing the new arrivals of fiction and non-fiction and Kerry asked, “Do you read much fiction?” “No,” I answered. “Fiction books are time wasters.” Kerry paused for a moment and looked me squarely in the eyes and said jokingly, “Stuart, they’re all time wasters.”
I also like self-help books, like Mark Manson’s series on The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, opens a new window. He uses a lot of profanity to make his case for Stoicism.
What was your reading experience as a child? Did you grow up with a lot of books at home?
There were tons of books in the house that I grew up in. And also music, as my parents were both classical musicians and everyone played an instrument which means I also read music as well as books. At about age 12, I discovered the library and began to hang out in the local library, the Charles M. Taylor Memorial Library, opens a new window in Hampton VA. I began hanging out there and learned where everything was, especially non fiction. I did discover some of the classics like Steinbeck, opens a new window early on.
Are there certain books that impressed you in your 20s?
What comes to mind first is Joyous Cosmology, opens a new window by Alan Watts. I totally loved Alan Watts. I've always been a spiritual seeker and I would also like to mention another book, High Priest, opens a new window by Timothy Leary.
Yes, I have two favorites: Book of Bamboo, opens a new window by David Farrelly that I illustrated. When this was published in 1984 we went around the country pushing the book and had a great time while doing so. We both liked to drink and sing. I met the author in Bolinas and I would describe him as invasive, wild and impossible to get rid of, just like bamboo.
Another favorite is The Book of Knowledge: The Keys of Enoch, opens a new window, by J.J. Hurtak, my former professor at CAL Arts. I calligraphed the 64 Keys in the book.
Do you have a favorite author?
I'd have to say Tom Robbins, especially Jitterbug Perfume, opens a new window. I really admire his ingenious turns of phrases. I also liked Henry Miller , opens a new windowwho was very influential in his times.
Do you plan what to read next?
I buy books that I want to keep. I just got a new songwriting book by Andrea Stolpe, Popular Lyric Writing:10 Steps to Effective Storytelling., opens a new window Sometimes the library doesn’t have what I want but I always search first in the library catalog.
Do you have a collection of books at home?
Oh Yes, I collect rhyming dictionaries which helps with songwriting. For a long time I collected books on the Enneagram, opens a new window which I studied. I also like to re-read some of these books I keep at home.
What is your Ideal reading experience?
I like reading in the morning when my energy is new and fresh. It's a good time for thinking and drawing too.
I love reading because it exercises my mind in a really good way. I read to fill my mind with creative images and ideas.
The fear-mongering of the media and the questionable desires of the internet are not for me. My cup of tea is a book and a quiet nook, tranquil in a world gone to hell.