Getting back to normal

To pick up where I left off in my last post … we were out of power for six days total, and have had it back for a little over a week now. I’m still not at the point of taking heat and electricity for granted, though, especially since we had a high wind warning yesterday, which came with the additional warning that there might be some scattered power outages. Enough of this! Fortunately, we didn’t lose our power again, and our house is toasty warm and well-lit. It is so nice to be warm.

One of these days I will write a book review again, but for now, I wanted to tell you about an awesome exhibit I went to last weekend at the New York Public Library celebrating 100 years since the opening of the library’s main building in Manhattan. I arrived at the library with only 45 minutes or so before it closed, so I had to rush through it, but it’s not a large exhibit, and I saw most of it. It’s divided into four sections, each with a theme — observation, contemplation, creativity, and society — and each section had an eclectic mix of objects, including rare books, journals and diaries, artwork, sketches, videos, cuneiform tablets, and interesting objects belonging to famous and not-so-famous people.

My two favorite objects were a lock of Mary Shelley’s hair — a beautiful reddish-brown — and Virginia Woolf’s walking stick, the one she had at the end of her life. There was also Charles Dickens’s letter opener, with his cat’s paw as handle (you can see a picture of it here if you scroll down a bit). I saw a page from a draft of “The Waste Land” with Ezra Pound’s handwritten corrections and deletions, Charlotte Bronte’s traveling desk, a page of Virginia Woolf’s diary, a page of Jorge Luis Borges’s handwriting, a draft of a speech Hemingway gave, and a letter written by Keats. There is a hand-written manuscript of the Declaration of Independence and a copy of David Copperfield marked up by Dickens in preparation for public readings. There was also a Gutenberg Bible.

I love seeing these kinds of things. There’s something mysterious and wonderful about laying eyes on an object that John Keats or Virginia Woolf touched. It allows me to imagine their mundane, physical existence and makes them seem more real. So, if you’re in New York City with some extra time on your hands, check it out.

7 Comments

Filed under Books, Life

7 responses to “Getting back to normal

  1. Oh wow, I wish I’d known about that exhibit. I was just in New York for a business trip a couple of weeks ago, and I might have been able to sneak in a quick visit. Sounds wonderful!

  2. I’m glad things are back to normal now. What an ordeal it must have been. And for the library centenary exhibition, that’s just amazing… That you can see literary history up close and personal. The four themes are so apt. I’m curious to know what Charlotte Bronte’s traveling desk is like. Interesting that she needed one.

  3. I’m glad you’re cozy-ing up once more. Thanks for the chat about the exhibition: it sounds just marvellous.

  4. I have such a weakness for this type of exhibit. It’s exactly what you say: the imaginative power of coming into contact with a ghost of an artist’s everyday, physical presence. I think it’s especially relevant to Woolf since she wrote so much about the lingering presences carried by inanimate objects—rooms that have just been vacated, letters sitting unread on the hall table, the amazing scull-and-scarf sequences in To the Lighthouse. Cool that you got to enjoy all those artifacts!

  5. I love looking at handwritten manuscripts and old books with maginalia. I saw one of L.M. Montgomery’s in PEI with lines scratched out and new lines penned in. That was fun!

  6. I was wondering if you were with power again! You’ve not had a very nice fall, have you? I hope the power stays on now for the duration! The exhibit sounds really wonderful–just the sort of thing I’d love, too. I’m sure I’ve said it before, but I am envious of all the great cultural/literary excursions that are available living on the east coast!

  7. Glad the power finally came back on and continues on! That sounds like a really awesome exhibition. I clicked on the link to see Dickens’ letter opener thinking that it was an impression of his cat’s paw or something but no, it’s the actual cat’s paw! Yikes!

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