By D.D. Jolly, the Dostoevsky of Champagne Dilemmas
D.D. Jolly, here. Despair to my friends. I went to the library the other day. It was a pleasant outing. There is nothing unusual about that. I have been known to pack a half day of rations (whiskey flask, sandwich, sweets, medications, mittens, lip balm, lipstick, hand cream, cell phone, head phones, flashlight, measuring tape, first aid kit, stainless steel lock pick set, machete, etc.) and wander the stacks for an hour or two.
There is one library I have haunted for years. I learned the organization of the books well enough to find what I wanted without the call number. It is an ugly building. It is, I am told, a good example of the cozily-named style Brutalist architecture. I am merely the conduit of this observation because I don’t know the difference between a good example and a bad example of Brutalist architecture. The style features a concrete exterior with many windows and yet the interior is dark. The light is absorbed by the muddy color palate and creates a perpetual rainstorm of the soul. The interior showcases an exquisite waste of space and lack of function.
The library people re-shelved the books and erased my pheromone trail, surely with malice aforethought. I am back to the slips of paper and call numbers, but Despair’s eyes are not as fresh as before and much peering occurs. Peering at the paper – is that a 4 or a 9? Peering at the spines – why didn’t they redo these labels? Nobody can read these.
Reading life, that tricky circle, has led me back to Henry Miller. I used to know where to find his books. He was on the bottom two shelves in the second to last row in the far corner where the scholars are caged, not the corner that is a favored place for… that is a ditty for another day. Miller is in the center row, which you would think is prime real estate, but you would be wrong. Remember, this is a Brutal Library. A floor to ceiling concrete cube is plopped in the center of the étage for load-bearing purposes, or some such foolishness. The width of the central aisle is slightly less than the length of my thigh. Miller is still on the bottom two shelves. He is in a tight place.
What to do?
If you are hale and hearty, stand perpendicular to the stacks, do a handstand, walk yourself parallel to the shelf and read the titles upside down. This is not the best position because you need one hand to take a book off the shelf and you need both hands to inspect the pages. Miller brings out the mad beast in his readers with their doodlings, whoops and denunciations. I cannot abide readers who mark up library books. That is why God invented index cards. Stop it now.
Or, you can assume Marjari Asana, Cat Stretch. As before, stand perpendicular to the stack. Get down on your hands and knees, arch your back, lift your hips, and breathe deeply. Try to make this a flowing movement. This is not an optimal position, particularly for those of you with neck problems, because you have to turn your head to look at the books' spines. And, you need both hands free to weed out the maculated copies of Black Spring. Also, this position lacks dignity. While you are probably wearing yoga pants as you read this, we are in a library, folks.
The third option, which is the best option, is this option. Stand parallel to the stack, press your back against the wall, slide down the wall, open your legs to a forty-five degree angle, before your knees hit the shelf, and balance on your toes. This position leaves you free to read, scratch, apply lipstick, or record your important thoughts on an index card. If you suffer from lack of balance, hum an obscene shanty and lean against the wall, you will do the wall no harm. Make your selections and move on; don’t stay in this position for too long or you will get a wicked head rush when you stand up, not a “metaphysical floating next to the Seine” head rush.
Who was on this shelf before? I don’t remember. Miller would be tickled to know that a) there is a library where a reader must flash her junk to find his books and b) skirts are back. It’s a cosmic coincidence that Miller ended up in this exact spot. This is where he belongs.
Happy to oblige, Henry.