Every time I go to the library, I think about Burgess Meredith. Readers of a certain age will remember the Twilight Zone episode Time Enough at Last. The childhood fantasy of being locked in a library for the weekend has never left me. Neither has the post-apocalypse image of a bereft and furious Meredith sitting on the library floor, piles of books surrounding him like a tattered and musty tutu, his shattered eyeglasses nearby. I was mightily P.O.’d at Rod Serling for that one.
Where else but a library are a building’s entire contents yours for the asking? Not Nordstrom’s, no matter how good the shoe sales. Not the local chocolate shop or my favorite bead store. That delicious sense of expectation I felt as a child has never left me. I still love the limitless possibilities walking through the stacks gives me. Scrolling through a Kindle list doesn’t even nick the feeling of stroking the spines of books, reading their titles through the glare of the protective cellophane covers. What a nerdy kid I must have been, gleeful over an entire shelf of Danny Dunn sci-fi, addicted to those blue fabric-bound biographies that were so maddeningly thin on women’s lives.
Today I took home Kate Christensen’s The Great Man (recommended by two friends); Geraldine Brook’s People of the Book (rereading it in advance of reviewing it for a synagogue luncheon); David Baldacci’s Stone Cold (because I love him), Jane Green’s The Beach House (intriguing plot — an eccentric elderly Nantucket resident rents out rooms of her blufftop home to keep ends meeting); and The Soloist by Steve Lopez (LA Times journalist meets Skid Row violinist). What better joy than leaving the library, a stack of books cradled against the ribcage, the crease in your elbow now a smile of anticipation?
Just be sure your specs are firmly settled on the bridge of your nose.