Allegra Goodman

Allegra Goodman

A weeklong electronic journal.
April 15 1997 3:30 AM

Allegra Goodman

VIEW ALL ENTRIES

       This morning was one of those Mondays full of jangling phone calls, papers flying everywhere on my desk, stupid little errands to do. I decided to escape it all and track down a reference in Harvard's Widener Library.
       Widener is so serene, so steadfast standing there above--near but untouched by--Harvard Square. It is a storehouse, not only of books, but of calm. The floors are smooth and grand, and the hundreds of stairs lead majestically to the accumulated books of hundreds of years. In these stacks the dust has settled, and passing intellectual and literary fads fade together in their blue and red library bindings.
       The serenity and internal logic of the place is unaffected by the computer terminals on every floor. I typed in the reference I wanted, Hyder Rollins' edition of Keats' letters. The terminal insisted it was in a different library, but I remembered I had seen it on the shelf with the Keats books in English literature. I gave up on the computer and dived into the stacks, determined to find the book by dead reckoning. My feet knew the way up the stairs to the English literature books, and instinctively headed for the Keats section. There were Gittings' edition of Keats' letters and Forman's, and next to them, in its blue-gray binding, Rollins' Letters of John Keats in two volumes. These are the simple pleasures of the researcher: that the computer is wrong; that the library itself has the answers; that the book is there; and that no one has checked it out.

Allegra Goodman is the author of a novel, The Family Markowitz. She lives in Cambridge, Mass.