novels / reading

Dispatch from the Library

I have a friend at work (if she’s reading this, she knows who she is) who shares my intense love of the library. She’s a much faster reader than I am, though; the books she can read in a week! I envy her speed. The good thing about her quickness is that she’s always up for a trip to the library… So today we went to our usual Midtown library during the afternoon to return books and get our fix—it’s under construction and the long line to get to the checkout desk would have turned most people away, except for us. It might be physically impossible to leave a library without at least one book. So we braved the cramped stacks in the basement, the long line, and I came away with two books and two films. Enough for one day, no?

Not so.

After I headed home, on the way to the post office to mail my workshop story, I happened to pass by my favorite neighborhood library, the one that used to be a courthouse, and I couldn’t not go in.

I’m typing this post from inside.

What is it about the library? I’m looking out over an airy room, people scattered about reading. The spines of the books catch the sunlight. Some are grimy and wrinkled and look like they’ve been read hundreds of times. The windows are stained-glass, the clock stopped (no, really, I think the hands are stuck), and just ahead of me an old woman with a bamboo sun hat and a bubbie cart for all her books peeks through a stack of novels, trying to find just the right one. She reads the first page, and a page from the middle. I notice she doesn’t dare steal a glance at the end.

You know there’s no way I’m walking out of here without at least one more book. It’s unthinkable.

9 thoughts on “Dispatch from the Library

  1. This makes me anxious to go to the library. Alas, the one in walking distance kind of sucks. Plus I am still only 1/4 of the way through my last library book and have had to renew it twice already. Ack.

  2. So, what did you get? I may have to go to the one near us in Brooklyn tomorrow. I *do* have to return a book there. I’m so glad you understand and appreciate my love for the library.

  3. I hear you on the library! Love it, the smell, the muted shuffling, all those lovely book spines. The library is one of main reasons the stack of unread books on my nighstand never seems to diminish!

  4. Here are the openings from the books I got:

    “Some people’d say I was destined for all this killing when Uncle Frank came into my life but it goes back further than that. To when my brother was born.” (The Killing Jar by Nicola Monaghan)

    “All they could ever tell me was that the lightning came in through the top of my head. Not that I couldn’t have figured that out for myself. When the storm was over and we’d all been carried down the mountain, I woke up with a splitting headache and a numb place in the center of my scalp.” (The Lumiere Affair by Sara Voorhees)

    “Among other things, I’ve taken up smoking. Ana says I should stop with the good girl/bad girl stuff, and obviously she’s right, but sometimes when I have a cigarette in my hand and the streets are dangerously empty and I’ve had a few drinks after my shift and I am noticing the lights that are on in different apartments, lighting stairways and whole buildings, blinking red on the skyline, I think about the nights on the island when I was content to stand alone outside the house, listening to the fog horns in that soft blackness, and tasting the air, sweet with salt.” (Among Other Things, I’ve Taken Up Smoking by Aoibheann Sweeney)

    But first… I have a screenplay written by two very talented friends to read! (EXCITED.)

  5. Oh, I love hearing about library love. What a good day you’ve had.

    Those books sound very promising — they’re all first person narratives. Hmm. Any special reason for that?

    hope it’s a wonderful reading and writing weekend.

    xo, L

  6. “Among Other Things, I’ve Taken Up Smoking” has my favorite title/first sentence in recent memory. I hope it’s wonderful! I might have to pick it up next time I am at the main library.

  7. Unlike most readers I’ve never been a library addict. It probably has something to do with the fact that my library growing up was dank and understocked and generally unpleasant. However, since I’ve begun teaching at a community college with a gorgeous library (walls of windows looking out into an atrium) and a nice stock of fiction, I’m in LOOOOVE.

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