The Wood Between the Worlds

Libraries are a sanctum to book lovers everywhere.  A library is a place where words are respected.  Where the full spectrum of literature is displayed.  And where anyone can access the greatest masterpieces of the written word.

You can imagine my shock when I recently searched in our local library’s catalog for John Keats’ Endymion and received a “0” in the search box.

My library does not have a copy of Endymion.

This, my friends, is travesty.  Nothing short of literary travesty.

John Keats was a master of the English language, his work ranked with Shakespeare and Milton.  I assumed that every library would have at least his major masterpiece.  But my library does not have Endymion.  Not even any excerpts.

This is not the first time the library has disappointed my expectations.  Apparently, our county system no longer owns a copy of Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury, unless I want to listen to it on MP3 Audio Files.  Indeed, it seems that if I want Ray Bradbury material other than Fahrenheit 451, I will have to listen to it.  And the list of disappointments goes on–

The most famous book by Elizabeth Goudge?  Sorry, but they do stock her more obscure books.

Young adult non-fiction you’ve scoured the library for?  Oh, that’s mixed in with the adult non-fiction.  Right, I knew that.

And the fines for returning items after hours.  I hang my head in shame.

Perhaps, I just have high expectations for my library.  Perhaps I just want to be able to walk in to any location and find the book I seek.  (Project Gutenberg doesn’t have everything, you know.)  Why can’t every good book be available at every library?  Why can’t I just read the name of a book and have it magically whisk out of the library and appear in my house, much like how Mo reads characters out of their own books in Inkheart?  Why can’t all libraries be as amazing as the library in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast?  Why can’t the words come alive with moving pictures like the magic book Lucy reads in Voyage of the Dawn Treader?  Next to fictional libraries, real-life libraries can look rather wimpy.

So as I meander through the stacks, I may weep at the lack of some beloved favorite or regret the absence of a literary masterpiece.  I may even cry “Treason!” when Keats has been neglected.  But in the end, I forgive my library.  For all its imperfections, the library is still a magical place–“the wood between the worlds” as in The Magician’s Nephew–a conduit between taxing reality and the most incredible, adventurous lands.  When you step through library doors, you enter a passageway where entire worlds, dormant and still, await your fingers to open them.  Don’t let the brick and mortar walls fool you.  On each shelf is a new book and a new world.  On your journey through that new world, you will grow and change, perhaps encounter a villain or two.  And when you come safely back home, you will be different than when you began.

That, my friends, is amazing.  Keats or no Keats.

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The End of the Summer Reading List

Well, summer is officially over.  I’ve replaced the last book on my summer reading list on the bookshelf and return to college.  There was drama.  There was ordinariness.  There were retrospective memoirs, horrific dystopias, and gothic romances.  For three months, I made friends with pioneers, 10 year-old boys, British governesses, anarchists, clergymen’s daughters, cursed New Englanders, and Dorothy Gale.  I’ve visited train stations, the summer house, penny arcades, the moor, the parlor with Alice’s piano, a western soddy, Bath, Northanger Abbey, the Kingdom of Ev, and even Oceania.  Shoud you ever wish to visit these fantastic places, here is the list of where you can follow my adventures.

Summer Reading List:

Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury
Murder in the Vicarage by Agatha Christie
May B.  by Carol Rose Starr
The Inventions of Hugo Cabret by Brian O. Selznick
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
The Man Who Was Thursday by G. K. Chesterton
1984 by George Orwell
Persuasion by Jane Austen
House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
Ozma of Oz by L. Frank Baum

Next summer I hope to revisit Narnia, drop by Neverland, make an excursion into the world of F. Scott Fitzgerald, delve into Roethke’s greenhouse, and continue my trip through Austenian England.  You do not have to be Silvertongue from Inkheart to bring characters to life.  All you need is imagination and an open book.

You Know You’ve Read Too Much T. S. Eliot When…

T. S. Eliot.  You can’t deny that this brilliant, albeit intellectually snobby, banker was one of the greatest poets in the English language and of the 20th century.  But you gotta’ admit.  Getting into Eliot can drive you to the point of insanity.  And once you’ve passed that point–once you discover the structure to The Waste Land, or the underlying metaphor in “Sweeney Among the Nightingales,” or the fact that Eliot’s poetry explores meaninglessness over and over and over again–you realize this reserved Anglo-American writer is quite fascinating.  However, you will quickly recognize too much Eliot is definitely too much of a good thing.  Here are a few warning signs you’ve been spending too much time with T. S. Eliot.

1.  You start over-quoting The Tempest.
2.  You can’t leave Starbucks without pausing to solemnly say, “I have measured out my life in coffee spoons.”
3.  You find your first grey hair and decide to wear your trousers rolled.
4.  You realize you can compare people to all sorts of unflattering animals in wildly poetic diction.
5.  You feel compelled to make all your written communication reflect musical structures.
6.  Rain becomes a BIG deal at all times of day, month, and year.
7.  You start taking sides over the possible optimistic/pessimistic end of The Waste Land:  Team Thunder and Team Sosostris.
8.  You immediately respond to mobs of people with “I had not thought death had undone so many” and realize you’re also overquoting Dante.
9.  You start dreaming scenes from Dante’s The Divine Comedy set in 1920s England.
10.  You spend every second of the interminably long Hamlet directed by Olivier criticizing Hamlet for his indecision.
11.  You find yourself writing about fragmentation in all your other college courses.
12.  When running late, you tell your family, “HURRY UP, PLEASE.  IT’S TIME.”
13.  You obsess over hair.
14.  Sirius becomes your favorite constellation
15.  You find yourself humming “O. o. o.  That’s Shakespeherian Rag.”

Happy poetry reading.