Non readers like to preach that books are boring. Music can be energetic, film can be edgy but books are static objects bought only by ladies who delight in porcelain dog figurines. There is an urgent necessity to exhibit the revolutionary genesis that can inhabit a book. The Blackbird Books project, opening in October and situated in Mitrovica/ë Kosovo plans to show the cutting edge of literature that can decapitate the arguments of the uninitiated.
- individual folks who took it upon themselves to initiate book drives around the world (especially Dave and Jane)
- the wonderful people at bookmooch.com
- the American KFOR (the U.S. NATO presence here.) I wonder how many bookstore managers have seen their shelves stocked by soldiers in fatigues?
JB: Projects such as the African bookmobile have asked authors to donate the novels they've written. Have you fostered any such relationships?
AB: We actually are planning an initiative along those lines. Check back with me in six months.
JB: What has been your strategy for getting books?
AB: The kindness of strangers. It worked.
JB: Which books that you received do you think have the most potential to change someone’s life?
AB: I don't really have an answer for that. I'm using my personal taste to stock our "permanent library" (ie. books that cannot be traded or sold.) It remains to be seen whether or not my taste will transfer to our new surroundings, but my taste includes comic books, classic Russian novels and a lot of things in between, and I don't see why any of them wouldn't have the potential to change lives.
JB: Who is your favourite author? Is there a book that changed your life?
AB: Can I give you a top ten instead? I don't have a favorite one of anything except wives. My top ten writers and playwrights might be Gunter Grass, Susan Choi, Goethe, Samuel Beckett, Donald Barthelme, Charlie Scott, Tolstoy, Borges, Dostoyevsky and Wallace Shawn. I'm a sucker for German and Russian classics, but this list leaves out 20 or 30 favorites that have had a huge impact on me. Brecht's Baal definitely changed my life, and I think that maybe Grass' The Flounder did too. So did a lot of Green Lantern storylines.
JB: What is your favourite place to read?
AB: Ha! The top floor of Blackbird Books, south of the bridge in Mitrovicë/a, Kosovo.
JB: Do you plan on opening a second site in the future?
AB: Not really. I'm not opposed to that thought, but I also like the idea that this place might be unique within Kosovo. A one-of-a-kind spot that people know they have to visit when they come to town. Something that the local citizens are proud of. As I type this response to your email, there are two teen-agers sitting downstairs reading books in our café. I would be willing to bet that this is an unusual experience for them: that they are reading books that they don't have access to elsewhere, and that they normally don't get to chat and drink coffee while doing so. That's the first thing that I wanted, and it's already happening.
The second thing that I wanted is for local folks to get invested enough that this project will eventually sustain itself. There is every reason to think that this will happen too. If a major expansion happens, that would be great. But it would be even greater if the expansion was the well-conceived effort of a citizen of Kosovo who took it upon himself or herself to do something more far-reaching than I ever imagined.
To donate to Blackbird Books you can send books or checks (made payable to Blackbird Books) to:
Or if you have a BookMooch account you can donate points by searching for Blackbird Books.
For more details on what kind of literature they want to receive visit http://blackbirdbookskosovo.blogspot.com/
Anthony Barilla writes about Kosovo at kosovotravelogue.blogspot.com