A Quick Literary Tour of St. Louis
I visited loved ones in St. Louis last weekend, seeking some literary inspiration and St. Patrick’s Day revelry. I stopped at The Royale for a delicious Manhattan and flatbread immediately after I arrived. Ploughshares called The Royale the city’s most literary bar, and I could see why. The atmosphere was warm and unpretentious, and the craft cocktails strong but elegantly mixed. I’ll absolutely go back when I’m in town again, and hope that my visit falls on an evening they host a reading.
I saw two live music performances while in the city, the first at an extremely cool, tiny, old-school blues club, and the second at The Ready Room, a newer, cavernous venue. The two music experiences could not have been more different, and both got me thinking about the power of word choice and tone, especially in lyric form.
The funk and blues era songs focused on heartbreak as a loss for both parties in the relationship. But, the newer, pop-folk band I saw sang lyrics that reflected on the nuances of a past relationship, and some of those lyrics veered dangerously close to blame, gaslighting, and vengeful words. “You can be so emotional,” the male musicians sang in one song, over and over, with the word “emotional” presumably referring to the mind state of the female in the relationship. In this context, the song’s lyrics seemed to imply a pathology inherent to prototypically “female” emotive displays. The newer band’s words struck me as more problematic—unfairly gendered and misogynistic—than the older funk and blues bands’ lyrics. I was not expecting that.
On my second-to-last day in the city, I stopped by Left Bank Books, St. Louis’s oldest and best-curated independent bookshop. Impressed by their selection of new indie bestsellers, used books, and literary journals, I didn’t leave the store without doing significant damage. The purchases include: The Kiss: Intimacies From Writers, edited by Brian Turner; Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado; Difficult Women by Roxane Gay; Catapult by Emily Fridlund, This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz; the latest copy of Boulevard literary magazine; and a few old copies of Granta and The Missouri Review.
From a visual standpoint, St. Louis is a gorgeous city. Historic, French-inspired architecture and red brick everywhere. The photo of a cathedral attached to this post is a stock photo that I did not take. I’m not sure whether to be sad or relieved I didn’t take any photos of this eye-candy architecture; the most precious moments of the weekend I spent bonding and socializing with my group. I’m trying to live more “in the moment” and less “pics or it didn’t happen” these days.
I got lots to chew on during my visit—some excellent Vietnamese food, the local literary and music scenes, and the mind-bending, body-contorting exhibits at the City Museum. I plan to be in Missouri again to visit friends later this spring. Next up, a literary tour of Columbia, MO.