Today is the last day you will be able to buy an Aqua Books book. As I’ve been tweeting and Facebook posting, former bookstore owner Kelly Hughes will be selling books out of a warehouse at 165 Garry Street in Winnipeg from 12 – 6 p.m. today. You should go.
Kelly tells the tale much more eloquently than I can about how the cultural city hall of Winnipeg that was Aqua Books went from reality to memory and how his mental health withered along with it (we all hope he writes a book). For now, read his Facebook posts at Kelly Hughes. Add him as a friend. He has lots but could likely use more. You can also follow him at @kellyhugheslive on Twitter for up-to-the minute posts on the progress of his sale and other interesting tidbits like his adventures eating ube-filled crackers.
I’ve blogged about my favourite used bookstore before but never really from a personal perspective. I relied on Aqua Books not only to buy books but as a haven from a marriage breakdown that I didn’t want to break down and that broke down with little prior warning, leaving me in shock and a bit of a stupor (edit: life is good now :) . I went to Aqua Books to be among writers, poets, musicians and other like-minded people that didn’t mind I was newly, awkwardly single with nothing to do on a Friday or Saturday night or even a Sunday afternoon. It was kind of like my local hangout and I either got lost in the many shelves of great books or sat at the back near the door during events in the makeshift theatre upstairs in case someone asked too many questions. I heard my favourite writers and local political and musical celebrities interviewed during Kelly Hughes Live shows. Even though, hailing from the country, I couldn’t make every event, Kelly made me and countless others feel like regulars. Aqua Books was my second home.
Always a writer, but more of the journalistic and PR sort in recent years, I took part in a number of creative writing workshops, finding inspiration for a book while writing at the foot of Kelly’s The Stone Angel, a prop from the movie version of one of my favourite books. I read my poetry out loud for the first time and a few other times. And, as always, as a librarian, I bought books, lots of books.
I am working up the energy to go to Kelly’s last book sale today because for me (and likely much more for him although he seems to have come to terms with it and just wants to get rid of all the books) it is a sad day.
But, it is also a new beginning and I, like many others, look forward to what Kelly is going to do next.
If you can, go and buy a book today… or lots of books. And, if Kelly isn’t too busy, get him to sign one. He’s not just former bookstore owner Kelly Hughes. He’s a cultural superstar as far as supporting the arts in Winnipeg and from what I’ve seen since Aqua Books closed for good, I think he will continue to be. Kelly did a lot, often for free, for this city and the creative people in it. And we should pay him back.
Buy a book.