I am referring to the structure of the building. The building is The Robarts Library on St. George Street. Many citizens say The Robarts Library is formidable and repellant. It is often called "Fort Book." The Robarts Library is a towering edifice with a few window holes. It would be like an ice castle if it were not built of thick opaque concrete. There is a central elongated, hugely tall central shaft on one end. Looming symmetrically behind this, seeming to spread like a tom turkey tail or peacock fan, the rest of the structure is lower and very broad,. It casts long shadows and impedes the sky. As a public monument it is a turkey. But I say it was meant to be interpreted inside out. Its beauty is on the inside; not the material inside, but the inside of the inside, its value. The Robarts Library is where one meanders looking to read. Reading is like meandering into luminescence.
I am writing what I was thinking only moments ago. I was standing behind door N of the Robarts Library stacks. I am writing what I was thinking and since this is writing I can omit anything I please, such as how I slid from the outside (the sidewalk was paved with black ice) to the inside of the building, how I slid vertically on elevators, how I alighted on floor whatever and what I observed as I walked to door N. I am writing about those moments when I stood beholding, not simply observing or encountering or seeing -- beholding rows and rows of shelves arrayed with books. The shelves are stacked vertically, just as the floors of the library are stacked vertically. Still, standing there, I saw rows and rows of shelves enclosing books cover to cover. I was thinking and am writing now, which evoke a longing to contrive a simile (I won't confine my imagining to the GTA.) for the rows and rows and rows. The catacombs....Mobile home parks....Allees of trees at Brinay ....Cornfields....This keyboard (look sideways)....Lanes on the 401....Store aisles....Lines of coke....Seats in a theatre.....Soldiers parading....A box of Valentine chocolates....Orchards....Pinstripes.....Sharks' teeth....A muffin tin......The other rows and rows
There are many many many very wealthy people living in Toronto. There are lots more somewhat wealthy people. Because of this Toronto has the best garbage you'd ever dream of rummaging through. And when it comes to rejected books people can make a pretty good living selling the books the affluent people throw away. Beyond that, there are events where one pays a pittance to take away unemployed books. I have waited for such events, waited longingly, me and a jar of loonies, sitting at the kitchen table just before sunrise. Not any more. The Robarts Library has always been there for me, but I didn't have a plan. Now my plan is activated daily, reliably, effectively and more inexorably than a TTC train pulling into the Bloor/St. George subway Station. All that my plan requires are surgical skill and surgical calm. I know the stacks in the Robarts Library that hold the books that no one has read in the past twenty years. These books don't even have bar codes on their backs. One such book, for example, was Rawling's Landmarks and Surface Markings of the Human Body, seventh printing, call number 611 R259 1935. With the deftness of a moyl I had held that book gently and with my scapel slit the front and back covers off. Without its covers it doesn't look like a book amidst the tufts of unbound paper in my messy handbag. Without its cover it has no protective implant to set off the alarm at the Library exit. You cannot judge a book without its cover. If you are The Robarts Library, you can't hoard it either. I have quite a library of my own now, the library of out-of-date ideas. It has no value to anyone but me. I am the only person who ever wanted to read these out-of-date ideas, the only person in Toronto over the past twenty years. These naked tomes are the garbage of human imagination. Elsewhere on the planet besides Toronto perhaps they would not be known as garbage. At sunrise, in the company of out-of-date ideas I am elsewhere on the planet
Here I am at doorway N again. One old-fashioned idea is the idea of ceremony. It was an astonishing idea and remains so. It seems that while moving at a ceremonial pace a person is suffused with invisible light. Someone would feel translucent, though no one could actually see through them. A person would feel covered in almost unbearable warmth, like a tea leaf feels when suffused with steaming water. The almost unbearable liquid restores the leaf to colour. The leaf is limber and sings; soundless singing, ripples of flavour. A leaf so enhanced might surmise this to be an event bestowed by supernatural forces, even divine forces. Cause and effect aside, the ceremonial experience is luminescent. That is why I am standing here. Everything is still except my eyes. And behind them my mind. Gaze and consciousness sway left to right, return gracefully, lower, left to right, return gracefully, lower, left to rrrrTHERE! My mind receives the figure 666. This is just too undivine. The call number I see is 666.999.DOA. I slide the book off the shelf. Turning pages here. Hmmmmm.....Plate 3. Seventh Century B.C. Assyrian clay tablet. The texts contain recipes for many types of glass; they stress the importance of ceremonial purity. By purity I think they meant absence of hate.
Last night I returned to Robarts just before closing, walked through door N as usual. I had halted in the same position as before, in ceremonial calm, muscles shoving gravity straight through my spine, down along the radii of the earth, deep to a massive infinitesimal centre. Mind open to the light let in through eyes, vision skating from left to right, graceful return, lowered, left to right, graceful return, lowered, left to right, graceful return, lowered, left to right, graceful return, lowered, left to right, graceful return, lowered, left to right, graceful return, lowered, left to right, graceful return, lowered. Floor. A bug. A mite. Something alive with cursive legs like longhand undotted i's tip-toeing beneath the books at a nonchalant pace, reading the floor with its antennae.
Yesterday I stayed as long as the lights were on. I had sat at a wooden table near door N. I had pondered a saying of Laplanch and Pontalis, "Keep in mind a multitude of apparently insignificant elements whose correlations are only to emerge later on." Having been nourished in babyhood by the King James Bible it is impossible that the call number 666.999DOA would be an insignificant element. This is literature after all. Hadn't I balanced the demonic signal with a fine sentiment about "ceremonial purity"? And the next day I sustained the image of ceremonial grace. And the bug; would the bug be a proxy for Old Bendy himself, Beelzebub tempting the protagonist to succumb to a lust for cleanliness and order, tempting her in other words to insecticide? Mind you, The Holy Ghost is also a shape-shifter.
Inside the Robarts Library I perceive the Bank of Nova Scotia Information Commons. Under the protective aegis of the 20th Century War Lords, today's students pour their attention into the illuminated screens. They open their memories to the figures and figurations that they behold. How resilient these young minds are that such a tsunami of colour and connotation never saturates them; there is always room for more. There is no such thing as information bulimia. As for me, I'm not saying my mind is closed; the entryway to my imagination is merely out-of-date, like the hinged barroom doors in a cowboy movie -- the patrons could always hear when someone comes through, don't stop 'em necessarily, but have time to take cover..