Monday, January 26, 2004


The main library is wall-to-wall with patrons on Sundays, even shortly after noon. There's the daily contingent of the transient, of course, and on weekends the mix includes divorced fathers with their children, people in wheelchairs for which the aisles between shelves are just wide enough, and all the library regulars of Austin. The "new" shelves are denuded from the onslaught of Saturday. Astonishlngly, though, there was a brand-new copy of How to Do Your Own Divorce in Texas. An acquaintance who'd done a stint with the library reported once that this is the most-stolen book. They seldom last more than a week before disappearing. The computer network and the fancy on-line catalogue were both down, but the old green-on-black-screen catalogue terminals were up and operating. Unfortunately, none of the books sought and reported to be on the shelves were there, but the search led to infrequently visited shelves on the third floor. "Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen" by Larry McMurtry is one volume in the haul. It turns out not to be regurgitated pieces from NYRB. It's been borrowed, though, either by two people with the habit of turning down a corner of the page to mark a place or by one person who uses two different methods, the simple turn-down plus the pleated turndown. There are some people for whom bookmarks won't do, and they're vandals. There was a time, though, when I could unerringly turn to the page where I'd left off reading, and without memorizing a page or chapter number, because I don't do well memorizing numbers. This magical ability is no longer mine, but you won't ever see me turning down the corner of a page even so.


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