I’ve missed you, small band of blog followers. During my time in cold and rainy Dublin I longed for Greece: bought Theo Dorgan’s poetry collection Greek, bored my friends with constant references to “my” place in the world, sought out Mediterranean food at the Temple Bar street market. Then I landed in a scorchingly hot and chaotic Athens that I felt unexpectedly alienated from. Has Athens changed that much? Objectively, no: summer is always hot and chaotic; if anything, it’s less chaotic here in terms of dodging tourist crowds. So it must be me. My beau has dubbed it my postpartum experience, perhaps inevitable after the life-changing sabbatical I enjoyed here in 2010. (Cue “Tintern Abbey.” I’ll return to this subject later.)
So I sought refuge in the sanctuary of books at the Gennadius Library—which, if anything, has just gotten better. This repository for documents and artifacts on modern Greece, the modern library of the American School for Classical Studies, is filled with my people. All these early travelers, all these other romantics articulating for posterity their own complicated love affairs with Greece.
On these mornings that are already stiflingly hot and loud, I flash my reader’s ticket to the guard at the gate, slip into the aesthetic coolness of the neoclassical courtyard, and then the literal coolness of the air-conditioned library. It’s a small reading room—space for about 36 scholars, but only half a dozen of us are here today—and plain in style, especially after the delightfully rococo ceilings at the National Library of Ireland. Unlike many research libraries, where the rare books are all hidden away deep in the vaults of the stacks, the Gennadius houses many of their rare books in glass cabinets around the reading room. You feel that you’re in a generous friend’s study. The cabinets are locked, of course (probably unlike those in your friend’s study), but the kind and helpful Gennadius librarians pull out rare volumes, remembering my research, down to specific books I’m consulting.
Don’t you find that libraries stimulate and calm at the same time? (Favorite spot in Dublin: Marsh’s Library. I want to live in it. My cat would love it, too.)