© 2012 S. D. Stewart

Rage simmered and eventually overflowed in the library when I found only two of eight books on the shelf (Endgame and 77 Dream Songs [depicted as that glowing white brick at the bottom of the pile]). There was one Virginia Woolf book on the fiction shelves. One! Do you know how many the library owns? 22!! When I harassed the librarian about the library’s practice of storing books out of public view without indicating their status in the public catalog she shrugged off my indignation with some syrupy party line about the many hundreds of thousands of books in their collection and the sheer lack of space. “The general rule is if a book is five or six years old, chances are it will be in storage.” Yes, I understand the need for storage when you have such a meager number of shelves devoted to fiction in a library serving a population of over 600,000 people! But please, for the love of everything that is decent in the world, the least you can do is flag the books in the catalog that are not on the shelf! I cannot assume a book is in storage and go directly to the desk because what if it is not…then I look like an ass. Besides, the librarian in the Humanities Department always checks the shelf anyway. Not to mention the tragic loss of browsing capability. I don’t always know what books I want. I want to handle them, to caress their covers, to whisper sweet nothings into their bindings. When I brought this up it was met with a vacant stare and an empty smile. So much for a user-centric attitude.

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  1. That library would drive me insane too.

  2. Well, at least they had some Anna Kavan, albeit in the stacks.

    • It’s true. Despite the general complaining tone of the post, I was grateful they hadn’t decided to ‘deselect’ her books. Especially given that one of them looks like it’s never been checked out, and even still has an intact checkout card neatly slid into its pocket in the back. Haven’t seen one of those in a while. On the other hand, when I opened the cover of Asylum Piece, I found a half-book of green-tipped matches taped upside-down to the front endpaper. Significance of this is still under consideration, although I did come across a character in one story who was a beggar carrying a tray of matches, and he did appear to have a powerful effect on the narrator. I fear, though, that the mystery of the matches will continue to haunt me indefinitely.

      So far I have read both the stories you mentioned and enjoyed them. I kept wondering where she was going with ‘A Visit’ and when she got there, it hit me hard. I’m still mulling it over, as I can see it being read on a number of levels. I am also seeing similarities to Kafka in her stories, which is welcome. Thank you again for reminding me about her! It feels right.



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