Last night I dreamed myself into a library--The Library, since institutions in dreams tend to be singular. I was looking for The Alchemist, a book that I dislike, although I had high hopes for when I first read it. Instead of encountering the actual text of the book, I found a poster hanging down the length of a wall like an unrolled scroll with what seemed to be the entire text of the book (up to page 96, for whatever random reason). It began with a line abot the libraries of the author's childhood.
To read this long poster, you laid on your back on a large pillow provided for this on the floor of The Library. Large plate-glass windows and bright but diffused ceiling lights allowed you to float in the bright space, cocooned by the pillow and your own body and climb through the tower of text before you.
Having just come through a holiday season that encompassed more anger than calm and more silence than praise, I was looking for something that was embodied in The Library. For the bulk of the last few months I've felt as if a hand was laid across my lips in terms of my writing. Stories would begin and then fizzle. Words and themes would surface and then vanish before I could find a pen or find time to sit at the keyboard. And so I found myself balancing on a pillow, legs crossed and folded and resting against the wall, while I read an unrolled scroll that overwrote the text of a book striving to embody the sacred with a reference to the actual sacred--the libraries of my childhood. Even more than bookstores that stock the most recent along with shelves of games and fresh coffee, libraries are places where I can try out different types of books and where, once upon a time, I had to earn my way through the stacks, from picture books to biography to the jokes at the end of the sidewalk.
Not to mention the concept of borrowing and returning. Impermanence of ownership. It isn't the book that matters, it is the impression left behind.