Last week, killing time before a lecture, I wandered around the stacks of Columbia’s immense Butler Library. Each regular-sized floor of the building crams two ‘stacks’ in, low-ceilinged warrens filled with racks on racks on racks of every type and subject of book imaginable. Human presences are an interruption in the flow of books, and the absolute minimum amount of space possible is grudgingly set aside for moving through the shelves. Light is on an as-needed basis – tiny squares at the end of rows flick on a light for that row only, and only for 15 minutes. Footsteps and door slams from other floors echo up through old grates blowing stale air. It’s basically an ancient leather-and-paper scented horror movie set, and I immediately fell in love.
As I’d picked a floor, stack, row and shelf at random, imagine my shock seeing the very book I’d just given as a gift (and angrily realized I had no copy for myself to read at home (how do I do that so often?)), Julia Wertz’s ‘Drinking At The Movies’. My wish was granted by a giant sentient haunted library!
( it looks like it says ‘ButtStax’ on the right)
I also found it hilarious someone at Columbia must have filled out all the paperwork and request forms to formally have this added to the library’s holdings. Looking around some more, I realized I’d wandered into the ‘comics’ section – they had EVERYTHING! All the Tin-Tins, even the super-racist ones! All variants and eras of Batman! The entire run of ‘Lone Wolf and Cub’! ALL OF HEAVY METAL!
Someone had to BIND THAT AND GOLD STAMP IT. A quick perusal and I found books by several people I know in real life:
A goodly collection of Tony Millionaire’s work:
(wait, was this donated by a ghost?)
Koren Shadmi and Dash Shaw:
…and Brendan Burford’s collection ‘Syncopated’ (Syncopated #2 was actually out at the time).
Yes, I have access to ancient Medieval chapbooks, rare handwritten notebooks by prominent artists and scientists, and the full writings of the greatest philosophers in human history in every language, but the next months of my life will be spent reading all of ‘Madman’.