Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Killer Queen

Currently having a very happy sojourn in Cayman. Having a Kindle means I can download anything reasonably current instantaneously, and it is a special blessing this year that even though I am not in Paris or New York, I can continue to send lists of library requests to Zack at Butler's Delivery Services, so that when I am back in my office there is going to be a bumper load of books waiting for me! I read Christopher Woodward's excellent In Ruins and it made me "need" about twenty new books.

OF all the amazing Institute things this year, the one that most amazes and delights me - it is by far the most important quality-of-life factor for me - is the system that's been put together to get Columbia books to us. Most amazing of all: "Reid Hall (Paris)" is now available as a delivery option on my beloved BorrowDirect! WHOA! The books go to Delivery Services and then get packaged up with the books that Zack's staff pull from the shelves and check out to us and posted to Paris. We're streamlining as we go along; I think most of the other fellows just send a list to our on-site research officer Grant, but since I am requesting so many it makes more sense for me to do a bit more of the work first, so that I send a list of the books as author and title and the stable URL from Columbia's CLIO catalog for the internal ones; initially I had to email lists of BorrowDirect ones too, but now I can request them directly, which is much preferable.

NB I am relying more heavily on BorrowDirect than usual because of the ways the project touches on architectural history; Columbia has an excellent school of architecture, and accordingly a really superb architectural library in Avery, but it's a non-circulating collection, so anything I want from there (scan and deliver will do me an individual essay from a collection) needs to come through the BD network. Funny note on numbers (imprecise): I was surprised when Grant said that the total number of books received as of early November was under 200, but not so surprised that 50 of those are mine! I think I will continue to be responsible for about 25% of total borrowing (I am one of 15 fellows, about half aren't academics), I just have unusually extensive book needs (it is my way of being in the world).

Mostly I'm in work & exercise mode here, those are 2 great pleasures in my Cayman life, but there have been a few other highlights. Very nice dinner last night at Ragazzi, where we were generously comped as a thank-you to the Cayman Islands Triathlon Association (it was a committee meeting for post-race debrief, really my intention was to say hello and then eat on my own at the bar, but there was an empty seat and I was invited to join properly - I always volunteer at the Stroke and Stride races if I'm not participating myself, so it is not quite as freeloady as it sounds!).

On Saturday we went to the movies. The film was Bohemian Rhapsody, and I thoroughly enjoyed it (would have made it a higher priority if I'd known about the prominence of cat actors!). Not a Queen fan as such (the songs I know are great, I like them a lot, but I don't know that I ever listened to an individual album, I just know the classic rock radio hits), but feedback from friends and particularly having read Daniel Nester's thoughts on the movie at Barrelhouse made me figure I would like it, and I did, very much.

Daniel is my personal Queen guru (here's another recent interview that you might like if you liked the movie); he published two amazing books about Queen, in Soft Skull days (I met him because Richard Nash was publishing us both there c. 2004).

Here is God Save My Queen and its sequel. I highly recommend them both - alas, they are not available digitally, so I will have to wait to reread until I am home in NYC.

I was bemoaning the lack of a good real biography of Freddie Mercury, and got this good recommendation from Daniel: Matt Richards' Somebody to Love: The Life, Death and Legacy of Freddie Mercury. Which I have downloaded and hope to read soon....

Miscellaneous links: a nice story about a beloved eighteenth-century scholar and what it means to be a first-generation college student; at the Guardian, Brian Dillon on our love affair with ruins; Garth Greenwell's new story; the secrets of wombats' cube-shaped poo.

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