Saturday, August 20, 2011

Library Day

It's been 3 months since I've been to the library! This week's take:

"Armadale" by Wilkie Collins (after reading an article about him in the New Yorker a month or so ago)

The intro to the above led me to "Victorian Murderesses" (Collins's main character in "Armadale" was apparently partially inspired by a spate of killings by women at the time.)

Then "Mrs. Lincoln" and "The Madness of Mary Lincoln," after enjoying the recent PBS series on the Lincolns.

Then Chas Bono's autobiography and "It Gets Better" (stories of inspiration for gay youth -- and hopefully for my middle-aged self! Being gay has rarely been easy for me, even now, over 20 years after I first came out. I'm still hoping that it all really will "get better.")

And finally, a bio of Nirvana. (I'll never forget where I was when I found out about Kurt Cobain's death -- April 8, 1994: At an office job, age 28, where I was having an affair with the state-official boss. He came over to my duplex after work -- after parking his car down the street so no-one would be able to place it in front of my house. I just wanted to watch MTV reports on Cobain and think and talk about him and listen to his music. My boss was 53 and had no clue why I felt sad and weird and didn't much feel like having sex. We had sex.)

Kind of a dark lot, I suppose! :) Well, not the gay hopeful stuff, but the rest is kind of sad-slash-sordid -- but in a good way! :) I love the description of "Armadale"'s main character on the back of the book: "The character of Lydia Gwilt horrified contemporary critics, with one reviewer describing her as 'one of the most hardened female villains whose devices and desires have ever blackened fiction.' She remains among the most enigmatic and fascinating women in nineteenth-century literature and the dark heart of this most sensational of Victorian 'sensation novels.'"

Unfortunately, despite Lydia's promised dark glamour, when I tried to start reading the book in the library, I couldn't really get into it for the first few pages and so set it aside. Back in college, I used to love 19th-century British lit, but recently have found it difficult. I tried to re-read "Middlemarch" a few months ago and couldn't get past the first 10 pages, even though I'd once read it all and enjoyed it. But with that description of Lydia Gwilt, surely it will be worth my buckling down and trying to get into the prose! (The New Yorker article I read earlier about author Wilkie Collins also made him and his work seem fascinating -- I've never read a thing by him, and it would be fun to discover a whole new author and world.)

I don't know why I don't make a special point of going to the library at least bi-weekly. I always feel good there. I love learning about stuff. It's like shopping, except, miraculously, FREE! One of my neighbors has been super-loud lately, so I just stayed at the library all afternoon. Partly just to be away from the apartment and the potential noise, but also because it was peaceful and nice of itself. And a great view of the Austin hills!

I guess 'cause football season is upon us and all the kids are coming back to UT this weekend, being at the library today reminded me of when I first started UT back in '83: It was a Saturday, a football day, and I was spending it inside the undergrad library with a stack of books, both for study and for pleasure. Swarms of vi(va)cious, pumped up girls-n-guys from the nearby sorority/frat houses were walking across campus in full Longhorn regalia on the way to the stadium, passing right by the huge library windows where I was sitting. I heard one guy say to his girlfriend: "Look at those losers in the library!" :) I smile now, but at the time, it made me feel really bad! And, embarrassing to admit, I also -- wanting to be one of the judgers rather than one of the judged -- subsequently tried for many years after to turn myself into one of the "fun people" who had "outgoing, fun" things to do on a Saturday afternoon and on Saturday nights. I disrespected what made ME, and my soul, feel good in favor of what supposedly "successful" louts judged should be my, and everyone's, behavior.

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