5/15/2003

i'd forgotten what a sanctuary the public library is for me. i just went to the brooklyn public library (the central location, near grand army plaza, the museum, and the botanical gardens) on tuesday for the first time ever and spent the entire afternoon there. it is still very much a place for me to bury my head in books, just as i used to as a kid. and the bpl central is pretty frickin amazing. they've got a whole wall of foreign language publications -- and not just the shitty french translations of michael crichton nonsense, but beckett plays, calvino, mallarme, borges. [warning: the following is a little heavy on the introspection. so if you're already feeling a bit bored by this entry, i would skip it.] the thing that i love about the library is the feeling of permanence. all the classes i took first term senior year seemed to grapple with the problems of memory and of the fleeting nature of life. i remember this particularly with to the lighthouse and portrait of the artist as a young man: how does one make a mark on this world? who will remember you once you're gone? every time i walk into a library, i feel like i've found a place where people are remembered, where what they've said and done are preserved, cherished even. i browse the shelves and find comfort in all the books that have long been out of print, that have probably only been picked up by a few people. but here they are, they offer themselves: "i have something to say." you walk into a barnes & noble, and sure, there are the shiny, newly published, highly touted, top-of-the-bestsellers-list must-reads brazenly displayed in strategic locations throughout the store. but with all this shite thrown in your face, it's difficult to just stumble across, say, de groot's in search of the perfect meal. and forget about finding colman andrews' catalan cuisine or michael lee west's books (both of which, i'm happy to say, sit on the BPL's shelves). there's something anxiety-inducing about these bookstores. i mean, how do you decide what to spend your money on? i may arrive with some notion of what i want, but i often leave empty-handed with a longer list in my head. there's no anxiety at the library though: if it's there, i'll take it. and then it's only a matter of schlepping it home. there is always something familiar about a library, the worn bindings of the books, a certain mustiness. that library smell. (although, the boston public library has that unfortunate addition of eau d'homeless man.) anyway. enough about that.

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