choco_frosh: (Default)
[personal profile] choco_frosh
8:15 PM

The chair in my carrel seems to have acquired a cushion. It’s light blue polyester, and rather stained, but it unquestionably does keep my behind more comfortable as I sit here typing this. I guess it belongs to the undergrad who was usurping my work space yesterday evening, who was rather surprised when I showed up to reclaim it, and still more surprised when I nonchalantly reached over her to grab my gloves and hat from the shelf, and asked her to pass me the book on the end of the row. I expect at some point she’ll return to reclaim it, trying to remember where she came to study in peace and quiet a day ago. But for the moment, it’s keeping the calluses on my butt under control.

My carrel is located on the fifth floor of Sterling Memorial Library, home of three million volumes, miles of claustrophobic stacks and impossible-to-find wings, and more sub-collections, specialized rooms, and offices than even I can keep track of. I say the fifth floor, because that’s it’s number; but there are nine floors below me, the original generous ceiling heights having long since given way to mezzanines, which on (almost) every level take up the entire length and breadth of the stacks tower. This, along with the early gothic fortress style, is what you get from being built by a mad architect in the thirties. Due to the design of the building, my carrel is an odd nook, partly behind the end of a bookshelf, with its wall space taken up by hot water pipes and the bottom of a lancet window some thirty inches wide and six stories tall. Out the window, I have a view of the more consistent neo-gothicism of Christ Church tower and the rather less inspiring cheapo-modernism of the “Courtyard” hotel, as well as the strange towers of Morse and Stiles.* Behind them, by craning your neck a bit, you can see the improbable cliffs of West Rock. At the moment, though, it’s pitch black out, and all I can see are the Yalies congregating in front of Toad’s for dance night, nine stories below me.

As carrels here go, it’s actually remarkably nice in here. In a very odd way. For its best features are the product of some of the worst features of the library as a whole. Thus the hot water pipes, inserted right through the middle of what might otherwise be shelf space, meant that the carrel behind mine had to be pushed back, giving me about a foot of space to which I’m not otherwise entitled. And the pipes for the sprinkler system, which runs intrusively everywhere about the ceilings and makes them seem even lower than they are, provides a convenient, out-of-the-way place to hang up my bicycle helmet.

Ok, ok, yeah, it’s hideous.

In front of me, the extra shelf that I borrowed from another carrel overshadows the large-scale map of the Constance region that I’ve taped up there, beside the Anglo-Saxon painting of the resurrected Christ. Yep, as usual I’m using my carrel to hang all the random cutout pictures from calendars that Grace won’t let me use for home decorating anymore. They serve to cover up the usual obscene graffiti on the wall, although higher up the 16th century map of what will become the Carolinas and the page from the Bible Moralisé are obscured by the dozens of books, most of them in German, for which this carrel provides a comfortable home. Behind me are a couple of John Speede county maps (Oxfordshire, at a scale slightly smaller than the original; Cambridgeshire, slightly larger). The ghastliness of the pipes is somewhat alleviated by the small design that looks like one of those Buddhist pantheons, but is in fact a representation of the Nine Orders of Angels. I look at them and remember which is which when I can’t think of better ways to procrastinate. And above my head, if I lean back, hangs the new addition to the decoration: King Sigismund, by Pisanello (probably). The forgotten emperor. Matricide*, reuniter of the Church, most reform-minded of German Kings, most distracted of German kings, perpetually broke. The great benefactor and great scourge of Constance. He stares out at something beyond us, one of history’s great might-have-beens.

* * * * * * * *

Right. Back to work. I have three hours, a bottle of bad coffee, and a chapter section to finish. Let’s rock.

*These Yale colleges are perhaps one of the best arguments against the abilities of modern architects. The architect apparently got the dimensions of the site slightly wrong, and so they ended up being built on 11/12 scale. Admittedly, they could have been worse. Just go look at the Architecture building.

*Well, mother-in-law. Possibly not quite so bad.

Update, 11:15

Date: 2007-03-01 04:59 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] schreibergasse.livejournal.com
It’s probably a bad sign that I’m now having the urge to do the “Dumbledore: Kickin’ some ass!” dance as I try to write about the linen trade.
Also, I really need to remember to bring food next time I do this. The caffeine buzz gives me the major munchies.

Date: 2007-03-01 05:21 am (UTC)
sovay: (Default)
From: [personal profile] sovay
Admittedly, they could have been worse. Just go look at the Architecture building.

I met someone once at Princeton who firmly believed that all Architecture buildings are badly designed on purpose, so as to encourage their students to do better. I firmly believe that, if this is a widely propagated belief, it's only so that the Architecture faculty aren't embarrased by the buildings they have to enter each day to teach.

Date: 2007-03-01 03:51 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
It's Sterling (we're not in Scotland) and Stiles.

And I never said you couldn't use those calendar cutouts for decorating any more. I was happy to have them taped to the sides of the bookshelves. Or pinned up in your study where you've got the college-dorm-room vibe going anyway.

Also, why the Carolinas?

-g

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