The distant summer I was a naive seventeen, I remember lobbying my then-boyfriend for a date-visit to a particular bookstore. He, a bibliophile, and I, a bibliophile, the proposition was ideal. We could hold hands and with our other hands rifle through select publications, pausing now and then to turn our looks of longing from the printed pages to each other. His deep deep chestnut eyes would reflect the dark lettering of texts. It would be hot.
He didn’t buy it, muttering something about supposedly more romantic locations, and I suppose I humored his doubts. But I was just being nice.
Over the intervening years, I’ve remained fast in my support of book-repositories as choice locales to snag smooches and revel in the romance of the past. I don’t know if writers are more passionate than any other set of professionals, but I suspect they’re not, and we simply know about their passions because they blab their feelings into books. But just imagine the collective yearnings housed in any moderately sized collection of lit. Imagine the books of B-floor Firestone wailing aloud their contained narratives and confessionals of fiery love. What an orgy. I can hear it. Oh, yes.
And so, mademoiselles and messrs. of Princeton, I propose a bit of a tour for lovers and library-lovers alike. We’re going to take a gander at some of the dark and not-so-dark corners of campus libraries where, perhaps with the right someone, you can, let us say, hold hands. So put on your best lip gloss and snarkiest stockings. Get out your sexiest book bag and let’s roll.
I mean, where else to start? The F-Stone burns, baby, through a snaking fifty miles of shelves. Five open floors for love…another known (the mysterious 2nd)…another fabled (D-floor, yes?)…a tower with a super-scary stairwell…the place itself yearns to have a few ornamental lovers here and there.
And of course, there are some lovers who’ve already tried the book-musky stacks. I talked with library personnel recently, asking if the rumors of illicit-amores were justified, and yes, the stories are confirmed. Blushing, I specifically queried the guards if they had seen kissing (I like to think of this issue as the ‘Romance issue,’ being somewhat of a prude, myself). They raised their eyebrows bemusedly and cited having seen ‘heavier things.’ But they weren’t judgmental—compassionate would be a better descriptor. One guard explained that the heavy stuff was understandable given the pressure of academics and expectations leveled at the typical Princetonian, that the stack tête-à-têtes are a sort of release.
Apparently, a favored reaction of the interrupting guards is the teasing shtick. Their textbook shout-out, ‘get a room,’ has proven an injunction that’s taken seriously—another guard recalled his embarrassment at coming across a couple engaged in very weighty matters in a carrel. Yet another guard smiled knowingly and reported that a pair had once taken to a rollick on the grassy ceiling plot between the above-ground Stone and Nassau street. There’s a lot going on at the Stone.
And I’m not saying that I advocate all of it. But do take down a bit of poetry from B, and with your beloved, barricade yourselves in an abandoned grad-study room and let the luscious words pour from your lips. Near the Russians, close to the solitary desk with scenic overlook of Prof. Fleming’s work mounds, you’ll be able to locate love anthologies (~PN6110.L). The contained paeans in 101 Classic Love Poems are rather nice, but the fonts and overweening decorative hearts are a little much. Sample instead the eccentric Art and Love, or if you’re feeling temporal, The Lover’s Calendar. March 3rd’s offering, Poe’s ‘Thou would’st be loved,’ is simply outstanding. I seem to know more about somber love poetry, so if perhaps you’re in the mood for that, look up and check out the collected Rupert Brooke, or Edna St. Vincent Millay’s sonnets ‘Love is not all’ and ‘What lips these lips have kissed,’ or, if you’re a castellano aficionado, the Rimas of Bécquer. If you or your beloved don’t go in for poetry, or really even if you do, take turns reading aloud Forster’s A Room with a View. Magnificent novel.
You might also try snuggling up with some good fem-centric writing in the Holden room, also on B, which houses a provocative mélange of books on women and gender. It also has comfy armchairs, and a nice window-seat deal. I was there, two weekends ago, reading up on the sexual relations of the Etoro, when I was startled to see a sprightly librarian lower herself onto a gray plush cushion and proceed with what must be presumed to be exercises for good circulation. Good circulation! Ah, an unwitting library joke.
Brief words for beyond the B: I’m told C-floor is particularly choice for the History lovers among us, and so be it. There’s also something remote, indeed, almost windswept, about going the other way, up up to 3rd to hang with the philosophers and mystics. So if you and your existential Other, need to figure out really why the Platonic love thing is not working, perhaps the presence of the filosof himself is just what you need. Plato dominates a goodly spread of 3rd floor shelvage. So do go to.
MARQUAND ART LIBRARY
It’s uniquely just that wide wide window paneling makes up the front of Marquand, a library dedicated to image. Really, the windows gleam with a clever voyeuristic conundrum: who is the seen and who the viewer? At midday and morning class changes, the three 2nd floor study tables are great for people watching—I once saw a man cycle past with an apparently content whitish cat draped over his shoulder. One gets to feel rather sneaky and godlike, sitting up there, watching, undetected, the parade of passers-by. But the situation flip-flops at night, with the illumined library broadcasting a live mural of industrious students. It’s a little creepy—who’s out there in the dark, looking in? And if you try to look out, during blackest night, you’ll find yourself, at first, looking only into an eerie reflection of the library’s innards.
But the duality of the thing makes it a titillating locale for love. If you’re fond of snogging in public view, why not make it memorable for your audience, and go for it, at night, in Marquand, near the window-front? Pedestrian reactions will be magnified, with PDA supporters feeling doubly warm and fuzzy, opponents feeling doubly incensed, and ambivalents feeling doubly ambivalent. I feel like I’m writing a Twix commercial. Or if you like the idea of slyly displayed affection, set a study-date in the morning near the windows and breathe a chaste kiss onto your the neck of your companion, as you reach over to turn the page of the full-color quarto you’ve been pretending to examine.
Actually, don’t even pretend. Marquand holds proud claim to some very fine art books and I am habitually saddened that I have to leave the books behind when I leave the library (Marquand’s non-lending). I’ve just been looking for a reproduction of Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s strange watercolor triptych of the bookish lovers Paolo and Francesca, and have been unable to stumble across a version (though Google images and the Tate can help you find one, albeit of an electronic sort). But in the search, I’ve happily re-stumbled over 2nd generation Pre-Raphaelite maestro, Edward Burne-Jones, and the book-holding Nimuë of The Beguiling of Merlin. Burne-Jones’s works: ethereal, mystic, and wonderfully romantic. It’s worth getting to know him. Check out pages 170-171 of ‘Edward Burne-Jones, Victorian Artist-Dreamer’ (SA) ND497.b8 W542 1998q; Wood, Ash, Mancoff’s respective books also look to be chock full of fantastical plates.
BRIEFLY NOTED: FINE, MENDEL AND 207 THESES
Finally, pit stops at a few of Princeton’s littler libraries will close out our little romp.
I haven’t been to Fine’s math, physics and bio repository for a while, perhaps not even since last spring, but I find it hard to forget the mysterious attraction of the downstairs (mostly math?) collection. I was ooing over the big Latin texts and really neat math problems while I was looking for perhaps pertinent materials for a math paper, thinking all the while that the isolation of the place would make it a good place for plotting, or what have you. Yes, a math paper. I don’t know what to suggest looking up. Perhaps limaçons, the sometimes heart-shaped polar forms (when they are heart shaped, they’re called cardioids). But enjoy…the books down there.
After all this reading and looking, and mathing, a break is in order. Mendel can hardly be classified as a private sort of place, but one may privately enjoy its music. There’s a great record of Barber I listen to when I feel a need for the Adagio; Turandot, the Domingo recording (CD-5367), the final CD, would also be right for romance.
And perhaps you’ll want to examine what fellow Princetonians have had to say on love. A goodly 207 of alums wrote theses with ‘love’ somewhere in their titles, though one must beware Strangelove and his ilk in that number. But mosey over to Mudd, where the theses live. I think I’ll have to, be it accompanied by some love interest or not; apparently a Comp Lit major in the nineties wrote a thesis called ‘Cyborgs I Have Loved.’ Irresistible.
Well, maybe a little resistible, for some people, anyway. Apparently, and not a little astonishingly for me, there’s debate as to whether libraries and indeed books, are sexy. I don’t understand it, frankly. Of course they’re sexy. Go read some poetry, go kiss someone in a library, go check out some hot art, or hot math, or hot music. You’ll see. And then spread the library-love, people.