Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Library for Wandering

I have here two lists, written on ramen noodle sticky notes (yes, really. I got them for cheap at the Box Lunch store at The Oaks mall in Thousand Oaks). One is of three books I had intended to check out from the Ventura College library when I go there next, such as another academic analysis of Don Quixote titled Don Quixote: The Knight of La Mancha, and Peanuts and Philosophy, part of the publisher Open Court's series of pop culture and philosophy books.

The other list takes up three and a quarter ramen sticky notes, and are other pop culture and philosophy titles from the same publisher available at the college library that I thought I might also be interested in, such as The Princess Bride and Philosophy, Monty Python and Philosophy, Facebook and Philosophy, and 12 others.

I realized that this is all wrong.

I checked out Futurama and Philosophy from that list, and couldn't get through it. Some of the essays were thin as it is, but I realized that this isn't the way I want to learn about various approaches to philosophy. I already have a stringent, though wide-ranging, list of books I want to read from the Ventura County public libraries. They're all holds that I pick up at the Hill Road Library, which is convenient for that, but not so much for browsing. I'd do that at the E.P. Foster library downtown, but despite being curious about their separate science fiction section, I haven't been there for a while because I know what I want to read at the moment.

In my pursuit of science fiction, I thought I'd simply look it up in the Ventura College library catalog and go page by page, checking out every single book over time that has even the slightest whiff of science fiction. The first one was The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu, apparently an enormous presence in Chinese science fiction.

Huge mistake.

I can't dive in like this. I need to start small. I need short stories. I need anthologies. I need to find out what within science fiction interests me and pursue that, while occasionally stopping in for those that don't quite interest me, but might still be worth a read. I can't be going into (currently) heavy novels like that one and just expect to fall in easily. I need time to know what feels right for me. And I have two anthologies, one that I bought from The Open Book at The Oaks mall, and the other Infinite Stars, an anthology of space opera and military science fiction that I checked out from the Hill Road Library, a copy sent to me from the Ojai Library. I'll start with those, finish the latest issue of Asimov's that I bought at Ralph's last month, and go from there.

Being that my Ventura County library stacks are already well-planned, I shouldn't be doing the same at the Ventura College library. I need at least one library that I can simply wander, and I should be taking advantage of this particular library being open again for a new semester, open to me. Yet, I did notice that there's a science fiction and fantasy essay collection from Ursula K. Le Guin called The Language of the Night in the college library that I want to seek out. And in the philosophy realm, I have been curious about Epicurus for a long time, and the college also has a few books about him. That's where I should be going.

But as to the other three slots available on my card, I need to feel free. Just take it all in. Examine the stacks closely. Find out what I spark to that I may never have considered before. Yes, I want to read Robert A. Caro's epic biography series about Lyndon Baines Johnson, and I know that the college library has all the volumes available. I bought the first volume from Calico Cat Books before I was able to get a college library card, so I need to read that first. So maybe, just maybe, I'll be able to start on those soon enough. But I should be going in again without a plan, like it was the first time after I had plucked The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See off the top of the Leisure Reading stacks, after waiting for months to read it (I had it on hold at the Henderson Libraries, and then we moved). I had no idea what the rest of the library contained, no idea what else I wanted to read, and I simply wandered. I need to do more of that. This is one library that requires that kind of time, to tour my mind through these stacks and just be. Just let go and be carried by the books.

Besides, this is the first time anywhere that I've lived that I've had access to a college library. Despite my feverish love for the formidable Lied Library at UNLV, we didn't live near enough to it to go all that often, and in fact, we didn't. The usual traffic from Henderson to Maryland Parkway, plus the seemingly permanent construction zones along the drive, as well as the campus charging for visitor parking, didn't make it worth it. This one just takes a short bus ride. That's it. And once off the bus, you face the library building dead on. Pure convenience.

It's time to start truly living in these stacks. I can't wait to feel at home again by this.