• Michael Gorra’s lovely appreciation of the town libraries of New England includes a “search for a library that doesn’t exist”: the library that appears in Edith Wharton’s novel Summer.
• In an address given at Amherst College, Marilynne Robinson describes long hours spent in the campus’s Frost Library (this was in the years following the publication of Housekeeping):
I was teaching a creative writing class at the time, and then descending to the dim interior of the library to read up on the political thought of Daniel Defoe and Henry Fielding, to slog through Frederick Eden, Thomas Carlyle and the Fabians. During this time I read the first volume of Capital and a number of the books that Marx notes, including England and America, by Edward Wakefield, which prompts the most direct discussion of the United States to occur in Capital (though Marx wrote a great deal elsewhere about America and for American publication). I read Thomas Malthus and Adam Smith. I found and read forgotten writers mentioned by those writers whose work is still invoked by educated people, though, as I learned again and again, it is actually read somewhere between seldom and never.
I was reading my way through what is called the dismal science–no science at all but thoroughly dismal. Its innumerable contributors called it political economy. This immersion of mine was a strange project by any standard, made satisfying by the fact that Frost Library was almost always equal to the demands I made on it. So passed a certain percentage of my relative youth.
Related: DFW votaries may recall mentions of Frost Library in a couple interviews, including Wallace’s appearance on The Charlie Rose Show, where he describes himself as having been “a library weenie from the lower level of Frost Library at Amherst College.”
These notes about Frost interest me because I went to Amherst and still have dreams about the library’s lower levels. These levels are located below ground, and they’re like distinct continents: No natural light, so a land of books and moles and carrel fiefdoms. During my time, at least one floor had mobile shelves (similar to this system but infinitely more ancient and jerry-rigged in appearance) and I used to worry about dying a horrible death trapped between two colliding shelves, which made me highly alert when foraging for any sound that might indicate the shelves were about to move. However, as far as I know, Frost has yet to record a fatality. In the catalog of bibliophiliac-related paranoias, this one belongs next to the fear of death by book avalanche in one’s living room.