Café Bibliothèque, the trendy coffee shop located in a former slaughterhouse, is know for its community of artists, philosophers, and intellectuals. One stipulation for patrons? If you’re going to sip your java inside, you must have a real physical book with you. That’s right, tree-killers only. But it can’t be just any book. It has to be “quality literature”. And that’s not all- while reading the book you must keep the cover hidden from view, face down on the table. These rules were created by owner Damien Booker (who keeps his own mental list of “quality literature”), in an attempt to encourage intellectual conversation among customers.
“If I see you reading a book, I immediately wonder what you’re reading. If I can’t see the cover, I’m forced to come up and ask you. It’s the perfect conversation starter.” says Damien, clad in skinny jeans and a black t-shirt that reads: “‘Fuck.’ – William Shakespeare”. He sips his fifteenth cup of joe that day, his hands convulsing. “Oh, don’t worry,” he sees my worried look. “New studies confirm that fifteen cups a day is perfectly fine and actually quite healthy for you.”*
Damien is part of the “Newage Coffeehouse” movement, which seeks to revitalize and continue the tradition of coffeeshops being places of intellectual debate. The “NC’s,” as they call themselves, rely on strict tactics to make sure their cafés continue to be beacons of philosophy. One such tactic involves banning those who do not fit the ideal model of a customer.
Which is why, one Saturday afternoon, Damien was monitoring his customers as usual, making sure nobody was violating his café’s credo. And then he saw her, sitting right near the entrance.
“I see that cover with the tie on it and the words Fifty Shades of Grey and I’m disgusted. That is the exact smut I’m trying to keep out of this place. And she had it facing all the customers who walked in the door! I shudder to think about how many actual philosophers she may have deterred,” Damien reveals, finishing the remains of his coffee cup and slamming it on the table.
So what did he do?
He immediately asked the woman to leave.
“I told her, ‘Mam, I’m going to have to ask you to GO BACK TO STARBUCKS WHERE YOU BELONG!’ She just looked up at me, her mouth open in shock. The whole place went quiet. Everybody was staring. ‘She’s reading Fifty Shades of Grey!’ I announced. ‘With the cover facing out!’ My regular customers bursted out laughing.”
Damien is often referred to as the “Book Nazi” among coffeeshop goers of the area. I spoke to one woman who prefers the Starbucks two blocks away.
“One time, Damien asked me what I was reading. It was The Da Vinci Code. He nearly tore my head off. I wouldn’t go back there even if I was allowed to.”
However, there are those who appreciate Damien’s efforts to maintain a high-brow, intellectual culture of exclusivity.
“I come to Café Bibliothèque for the thought-provoking conversations that I can’t get anywhere else. I’ve tried Twitter, but I just can’t get over the fact that any bozo can put their opinions on there. Damien has a knack for weeding out the common folk, and for encouraging an exchange of ideas among the rest.”
I could not reach the woman reading Fifty Shades of Grey for comment. After her public flogging, she fled from the cafe, never to be seen again. Perhaps she’s living under a whole new identity? To this, Damien responded: “Whoever and wherever she is now, she better not step foot in my café again.”
If you are the woman from the café, I would love to speak with you. Please get in touch via the comment section. I really want to know what you think of E. L. James’ portrayal of BDSM in the book, and how it is tied in to Christian’s childhood. Is BDSM a pathology in this book? Furthermore, how does Ana express consent? What is consent? Also, is their relationship manipulative and controlling, and if so, who really holds the most power? How and when does the power dynamic shift? Would love to hear your thoughts!
* I could not find the study to which Damien referred to. In fact, four cups seems to be the accepted daily amount of coffee.