All this and Blackadder DVDs, too…

 One of the great pleasures of my new on-demand lifestyle — besides easy access to the Purdy’s Chocolates in the mall — is that the main library branch is also nearby. Of course, they waited until I showed up to start renovating the grounds, but still not much of a detour (I can hear the foreman now: "Keep the path clear, boys, her fines alone’ll be keeping us in shrubbery for the next decade!")

So I got in, and got my card, and commenced to prowl the stacks like I hadn’t in ages. I don’t know how most people approach library browsing, but I have a definite System, evolved over decades of dedicated bookwormery:

1. Wander around the adult fiction section for a bit, sternly resolved not to head straight for the Catherine Cookson section this time, wishing it were actually possible to pick out my next new favourite story by its spine. Or possibly the colours on the spine. After a bit, I’m reduced to publisher’s marks. ("Ooh, Penguin!") 

2. Head over to the Catherine Cookson section and attempt to salvage self-respect by finding one, any one (out of the approximately nine squillion the woman wrote) I haven’t reread ten times. Sigh deeply as dreams of being Well-Read vanish into the ether again

3. Check mystery section for new volumes in favourite series. Console self with the fact that at least one of these features Jane Austen as the detective.

4. Wander into Children’s section. Realise at the outer paperback spinners that I am — finally, definitively — too old to browse the New Jedi Knights chapter books without the odd looks that I am, in fact, currently getting.

5. Hie self over to classic storybooks PDQ. Wish that in moments of stress could think of classic other than The Wizard of Oz.  Maybe that one Natalie Savage Carlson book with the boarding-school… or something… girls that would sneak out and buy the most amazingly yummy-sounding toffee.  That’s all I really remember, the toffee. Somehow it never occurs to me to look up the rest until I’m panicked in the children’s section.

6. Non-fiction section. Begin at the 792s, on the Dewey system, aka Radio, Film and Television. For someone who doesn’t watch very much film or TV at all I am insanely dedicated to reading about it. I once plowed through an entire volume entitled The Beast, the Eunuch and the Glass-Eyed Child just so I could say I had. Who I was going to say this to, precisely, I don’t know. Perhaps it was in reserve for the dinner party where I’d be forced to admit I abandoned Middlemarch three chapters in.

7. English Literature/literary criticism. Montgomery, Christie… Austen… Dickens…  On the grounds that they don’t actually let you take out entire sections, I force myself to skim until I get to the humourists. Once I am there and satisfied that I’ve perused every random comedian’s printed standup routine available (hellooooo, Rita Rudner!) plus a volume or two of Calvin Trillin, I repeat the process with Canadian literature.

7a. Optional: Enjoy the fact that it’s a lot harder, in the Canadian section, to tell when you’ve got to the humour. For instance: Sex and Violence in the Canadian Novel.  Actual title. On a university press. You can just imagine the post-grant party: all the future authors of Deconstructing the Agricultural Symbolism of Manitoba’s Minor Poets staring enviously. "Dude, it’s his world, we just live in it."

8. History/Biography. Here’s where it is possible to gauge a compelling story by the spine. Check for new volumes on old favourites, hope to find new favourites to fill in the gaps. Eventually, I will have a complete picture of Tudor England, pre-Revolutionary France, Victorian London and turn-of-the-century America in my head. Why, no idea. It’s a bit more exciting than here, I suppose. Some days, I have to repeatedly remind myself, "they didn’t have Cinnabon… they didn’t have Bath & Body Works…"

9. Trivia guide time. I note with amusement that most of these now have rather sniffy titles, like An Incomplete Education or Things You Should Know. Shaming people into reading your book, now there’s a surefire way of hitting the best-seller list. Although extrapolating out to future titles makes me realise the nerd-revenge potential: Stuff You Never Learned Because You Were Convinced You Were Going to Meet a Hot Vampire and Drop Out Anyway.

10. End up by the audiobooks. Peruse in the ferocious, passionate belief that SOMEDAY THEY ARE GOING TO PRODUCE A SPOKEN-WORD VERSION OF WATERSHIP DOWN, DAMNIT!… ahem. Not that this has become a minor obsession, or anything. Seriously, though — what’s the holdup? Did every single voice actor associated with the movie turn them down? Well, actually, can understand that one. ("Look, I’m already terrified they’ll ask me to ‘twitch my widdle nose’ in every public place I enter for the rest of my existence, OK?")

So, to the checkout. Somewhere in the midst of all this I have acquired, in rough order:

Hollywood Cartoons
The Greedy Bastard Diary, by Eric Idle
Dave Barry’s Only Gift Guide You’ll Ever Need
The Anne of Green Gables Treasury
Dickens and Women
Katharine Howard (New bio of Henry VIII’s fifth queen — for about ten minutes, before being executed for terminal stupidity aka adultery. However, if they can produce entire scholarly tomes on Anne Bronte…)
Still at the Cottage, by Charles Gordon (hitherto unsuspected sequel to his seminal Canadian humour classic, At the Cottage. Stephen Leacock, eat your heart out!)
An Incomplete Education (Hey, they promised to show me ‘how to tell the difference between Keats and Shelly’. I couldn’t resist.)
What Makes Flamingos Pink?

…I’ll let you know how it works out.

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