Saturday, July 23, 2016

It's always smart to pop into the library

    At the risk of suggesting that I wasn't Johnny-on-the-spot in Cleveland I did, to quote the Tammany Hal hacks, see my opportunities and took 'em. Such as, killing time between the 1:30 p.m. protest fizzle and the 6 p.m. protest squib (all the hard core protesters stayed home, I realized belatedly, saving themselves to flock to Philadelphia to howl at Hillary for not being Bernie Sanders) I saw that the Cleveland Public Library had Shakespeare's First Folio on display, so popped in to take a look, 20 minutes before the place closed.
     It was just a book, open to Hamlet's "To be or not to be" soliloquy, and I couldn't photograph it anyway. But the special collections department had a number of interesting displays, such as the spread of campaign literature above, or gems from its John G. White Collection of Chess Memorabilia. I particularly liked the "Sultan Peppah: Gourmet Chess Set," not an artwork, but a mass market gift item sold 20 years ago, but the collection, which has over 30,000 books and bound periodicals, has everything from Bobby Fischer's score sheets to Emanuel Lasker's medals.
    I mentioned the Lewis chessmen—a personal favorite, and they pointed with pride to their British Museum reproduction which is, I was pleased to note, exactly the same reproduction as my father brought back for me from London in the mid-1970s, a few pieces at a time, since he took so many trips there.
     The Cleveland Public Library is looking good, in part thanks to Cracking Art, an Italian art cooperative that has installed enormous, brightly-colored creatures around downtown, including a pair of bright sky blue birds in front of the library—I probably wouldn't have noticed that the First Folio, the least interesting part, was inside, had I not stopped to admire the big birds.
    They also have a card catalogue, and we talked about that. The librarian said though they've stopped adding to it about 2004, they still use it, as many of the notions are in a variety of foreign language and they have not had the resources to digitize it, a blessing, as we fans of Nicholson Baker know, because the cards carry all sort of information — scrawled on the backs, for instance — that tend to get lost in the rush to get them online. (Baker wrote a piece in the New Yorker, "Discards," in...ulp ... 1994, as a call to arms to stop disposing of these records, an argument he extended to bound newspapers in general and the British Library in particular in his cri de coeur, Double Fold)
     Besides, the cabinets are really beautiful, are they not? 


  1. A bit off topic, but Patti Smith has a very interesting Bobby Fischer story she tells in her book "M Train" (a fascinating read). She talked about it on PBS Newshour.

  2. I mean this in the best, most complimentary way: you are my FAVORITE nerd. Recurrent breaths of fresh air...

    1. Thanks. I still think of nerds as guys with tape on their glasses. And all the synonyms have the sense of "weirdo." There must be a better word ... how about "esthete?"

    2. They really are beautiful. This one is enjoying a second life as my junk drawer.

    3. How about "smart person"?

      Bitter Scribe

  3. I had no idea that in Cleveland a pedestrian can walk over a bridge and get a bird's eye view of a laker like that. Time to plan a vacation !


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