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December 2, 2008

CAAF: From The Cat Lady Files

So, for the past couple months I've been locked in furious correspondence with the library about the new Emily Dickinson biography, which may just be the spinsteriest spinster sentence ever typed. (Nearest rival: "Oh, my cardigan is covered in cat hair, what a nuisance!") It's a long saga that started in summer, when I began monitoring the library's online catalog to see if they'd ordered a copy of White Heat, Brenda Wineapple's new book which focuses on Dickinson's friendship with Thomas Wentworth Higginson, which I've been aching to read. A month went by, the book showed up as being in "Technical Services," which meant it was getting a plastic cover and a stamp, etc., and I ordered it up to be delivered to my local branch, very pleased to be first in line. Another month went by -- and, well, this all gets a little tedious in the retelling. Basically, something in the system kept going awry and the book kept getting checked out from the library's Black Mountain branch (the book's eventual destination) despite my having a hold on it. And each time this happened I would email the library to see why, providing with each email a fulsome accounting of times and dates and possible (helpful!) explanations of what might be the cause of the glitch, while Lowell would stand by saying, "Let's just go buy the book, okay?" And then, three weeks later, the book would be returned to the library, I'd put another hold on it and before you could say, "spinstery spinster," it'd be checked out all over again.

Finally, on the third (fourth?) round of this I gave up and went and bought the book. I'm not so far in yet but I've already learned one great little factoid, although one not related to Dickinson. Did you know that Emerson once described Whitman's poetry as "disgusting priapism"? Looking it up, I think he was using the word in its secondary meaning ("prurient behavior or display") but if he meant the word's first meaning, it's a marvelous insult and really one that should get back in common usage. Like "bloviating," but better.

Posted December 2, 2008 1:06 PM

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