Libraries, Rumer Godden, and Ovid

I didn’t have time to read Rumer Godden’s  Gypsy, Gypsy.  After 30 pages, I regretfully put it away. Set in France, this charming novel focuses on Henrietta, a young woman who has been raised by Aunt Barbe, a Colette-like debauchee with “gentlemen” friends. Henrietta wistfully wants a simple life in the country but her warped aunt has other ideas. The book is a study in the contrast between simplicity and dissipation. Published in 1940, this does not seem to be one of  Godden’s better-written novels, but I do intend to finish it someday (if I can find it). I predict the end will be (1) marriage, and (2) a move to the country.

I was at the library to do research for an article which is not exactly scholarly but perhaps a bit esoteric. It wasn’t exactly boring—I enjoyed much of the reading—but then I found some lighter books in the stacks that I prefer. There was Gypsy, Gypsy, as well as Dear Dodie, a biography of Dodie Smith, and Dodie Smith’s Look Back with Gratitude, a volume of her autobiography.  Such a treat!

But there is much to do when you’re on a brief “research” trip. If you don’t do research, the trip is not justified, let alone deductible, and I’m not at all sure about the “deductible” part anyway. You look up articles in a not very orderly way, you drag a lot of books to a table, you take a lot of notes.… and then decide to change the focus of your article.  I was delighted by Sarah Lindheim’s  Mail and Female: Epistolary Narrative and Desire in Ovid’s Heroides.  And so I wondered, Should I mention the Heroides, though I’ve always considered these poems substandard? This book  had caught my eye  in the stacks, and is  unusually well-written.  Some scholarly stuff really is not.

I was also astonished by what I could access on my tablet.  Free access to articles from obscure journals!  What? You don’t have to go up in the dark stacks and find the right journal? Oh, wait, this article is by a former friend and who knew how smart she was! Well, you did know… still. And it turns out you can subscribe to a service online and access these journals. But so much more fun to go to a library and get it free.

They try to make libraries “fun” these days.  The “fun” is on the first floor. There is a cafe, really more a market where you grab wrapped sandwiches and drinks. Then two TVs are on ALL THE TIME. I did not care for this concept. The sound was off, thank God.

The library IS a bit spooky at night. The lights are on a sensor system, so you walk miles in the stacks before the lights come on. I got the jitters one evening and got the hell out of there.  It’s a daytime place!

But then there are the books. Books and books and books, occupying four of the five floors, I think. Wouldn’t it be fun just to read at the library for a week?

The copy of Gypsy, Gypsy has that old-fashioned library binding. I like the feel of the cover and the library book smell. The dust jackets are not a part of a research library’s apparatus, even though the special library binding seems dead.

What is your favorite thing about the library?

6 thoughts on “Libraries, Rumer Godden, and Ovid”

  1. I like the smell of the stacks in the library, not so noticeable these days when many libraries have that ‘open plan’ design and have gotten rid of most of their old books. I dislike the intrusion of modern technology, but I understand that that’s what people want and expect now. I also like the feeling of being surrounded by all the books that can take me places without leaving the country or the 21st century, authors who can tell me what they thought or what happened to them during their lifetimes. I just love libraries, especially the older ones, like the one I volunteered at when I was a teenager. I’m fortunate to have a small room in my home that’s a dedicated library. I only have to walk into it to feel safe and calm.

    1. I do love old library books! Yes, the “open plan” design is popular and I don’t mind it so long as theyl keep the books. It’s good we have our home libraries, though mine is not in a single room.

      On Fri, May 17, 2019 at 7:53 AM Thornfield Hall: A Book Blog wrote:


  2. The good coffee! Never read Gypsy Gypsy, must check it out. I loved Dear Dodie. Probably one of the best literary biogs I have ever read.

    1. I’ll have to look for a used copy of Dear Dodie!

      On Sun, May 19, 2019 at 5:54 PM Thornfield Hall: A Book Blog wrote:


  3. I love the different covers you’ve shared here. But, as for what I love about academic libraries? I loved visiting them off-season, finding yourself completely alone on a wing on a given floor (there were two wings on each floor – large and study rooms for grad students and special people around the edges — sometimes there would be people in there, but you couldn’t hear them at all when you were seated at the tables, or in the comfy chairs in the corner where the elevator bays met, so it was as good as being alone. And nobody to look at you queerly for the unwieldy stack of browsing material (which, given the off-season but, would be just for “fun”). *happy sigh in memory*

    1. Yes, you can get so much work done off-season, as you say. Only for bookworms! And so many old books…some stored away in other buildings but still accessible. Alas, the comfy chairs at this particular library were on the first floor, and I was too lazy to lug all the books downstairs, but the old wooden chairs at the table weren’t too bad.

      On Sat, May 25, 2019 at 7:09 PM Thornfield Hall: A Book Blog wrote:


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