"I grew up fascinated with underground culture - music and zines and books and comics. By the time I was about 25, I really didn't have an outlet; I didn't have anybody I could share it with, except maybe a couple friends," says Domy founder Russell Etchen, as he discusses the impetus behind starting the little bookstore next to Café Brasìl. "It kind of felt like I had wasted all this time doing all this research. So the bookstore is kind of this opportunity for me to finally start expressing and sharing these things that were really sacred to me for a long time."
Upon thinking about it, this expansive, find-everything-everywhere internet that we enjoy now is really just a child. Take a mental wormhole back even to 2002, and it's easy to recall how little information was available on certain nuances of culture. People dug through message boards and forums, in a pre-Facebook world, before Google had reached the juggernaut proportion it now enjoys. Everyone's default information go-to Wikipedia was started in 2001.
Domy may not have been founded until 2005, but its roots lie in these pre-internet days, when word-of-mouth and small forums informed curious folk about a plethora of subculture. As a brick-and-mortar destination on Westheimer, Domy provides this same type of forum, albeit in analog form.
I started the store with the owner [of Brasìl], and then moved to Austin later to start the other store," Etchen explains. "We are a progressive bookstore with a focus on contemporary art & culture. I'm looking for things that are going on right now, and what's going on in the world of art, music, and film. I'm sort of handpicking things that are interesting and filtering them down into these objects that we sell in the shop."
The eclectic store has a broad range of stock, from works on graffiti art & underground comics to tomes of social conscience, fine art monographs, DIY guides, zines, design-oriented books, and much more. The front room also functions as a gallery space, and shows rotate about every six weeks. Currently hanging is "Erotica," a collection of "" target="_blank">semi-erotic work by Magnus Johnstone. The next show, "Revenge Of The World," opens February 5th - a body of drawings by local artist Gabriel Dieter, and it sounds fascinating.
Russell describes the collection as "kind of uber-dramatic, soap opera-style drawings. [Dieter] has been making this series for four years about mundane and romantic human interaction. But his cast of characters is comprised of mutants and aliens and mad scientists, but mad scientists who get broken up with by their girlfriend, who's an alien."
Etchen hesitates when asked about his favorite sections in the shop; much like a parent who's asked which of his children is his favorite. "It changes all the time. I have favorite books, and I have favorite sections of the store, but it's all sort of exciting to me to be able to dig around in contemporary culture, design, film and art, and sort of seek out things." He did suggest a few current favorites to us, though, among them Sean Tejaratchi's Craphound magazine, a collection of non-traditional clip art that Tejaratchi's been gathering for over 30 years. "[He] organizes it according to category. The issue that came out is all hands, hearts and eyes. It's just page after page of these really beautifully composed layouts."
Etchen's also a big fan of comic books. "Anything by Daniel Clowes is right up my alley - the new book that he put out this year, Wilson, is one of my favorite things of 2010." Our sister blog, the SF Weekly, had some nice things to say about Wilson.
Russell admits that the store may come off as a bit unorthodox to some folks. "Occasionally we'll have people that don't get it, and don't ask questions [because] they're shy, and maybe get the feeling that we're snobs. But if you were to actually engage with us, you'd find that we're just super-friendly and really excited about things...one of my goals with the store is to make it very inclusive, and to make it available to anybody, and to keep it as far from elitism as possible."
That engagement, even more than the shop's selection, is what really makes Domy special. For instance, when our conversation with Etchen veered into the world of photography books [something in which the author of this article has an interest], and furthermore a curious taste for the macabre, he offered up Jack Burman's stunning collection The Dead. "It's photography of carefully preserved human remains. It's really fascinating to me," says Etchen.
We countered with Max Aguilera-Hellweg's The Sacred Heart: An Atlas Of The Body Through Invasive Surgery (note - link is not for the squeamish), a gorgeous, stomach-churning book of photographs from surgeries in progress. Immediately that feeling of joy that comes upon sharing something special swept over us, and we felt like we could talk with Etchen all day long.
"My goal in Houston was to establish an institution, or a destination," he explains. Someplace in town where people could come and find out about things happening in the area, concerts and things that people are doing in the DIY community; this place where you could come and be inspired, whether you buy things or not.
"I just want people to appreciate the store, - to come through and talk to us, and maybe get turned on to something that they hadn't seen before."
One venture through the door will almost guarantee such an experience. For Art Attack, it's hard to walk into the shop without wanting to buy out half of the stock - there's always something new to discover, some new book or DVD that makes us wish our pockets were deeper. In the land of eclectic bookstores, Domy is a unique breed, and Houston is lucky to have it.
Domy Books 1709 Westheimer Road Houston, TX 77098 713.523.3669 domystore.com
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