Stephanie's Reviews > Jutland Cottage

Jutland Cottage by Angela Thirkell
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's review
Sep 06, 07

bookshelves: favorites, chucklepatch
Recommended for: anyone seeking a literary Cole Porter
Read in January, 1992

Ah, Montclair Public Library of New Jersey, how I pine for you. I remember my excitement when I found you were within walking distance of my apartment. And what a beautiful walk that was, drifting past the stately Victorians on Park Street, crossing the bustling intersection at Bloomfield Avenue, and then taking the short jog down South Fullerton. That first walk was on a lovely May day. Your lawn was freshly clipped and the sidewalk was sparkling white and clean. I was a bit suspicious of your 1950s architecture, but my wariness turned to delight the moment I set foot into your sunny, open vestibule.

Your children's section was a joy to behold. From the big tank of tropical fish to the round window overlooking the neighboring rooftops to the unobtrusive librarian, you hit every note just right. Perusing your shelves, I saw you had all the authors that every great children's library should: Ruth Chew, Jane Louise Curry, Rumer Godden, Maud Hart Lovelace, Betty MacDonald, P.L. Travers, and Dare Wright. My eyes teared up when I saw a copy of FRIEND MONKEY...kudos to the thoughtful person who selected these books. Best of all, the floor was utterly silent, save the bubbling aquarium and soft clicking of computer keys. The horrendous cacophony of the Brooklyn Public Library's Children Room seemed light years away.

Although I didn't get a chance to glance through it that day, I would later realize what an incredible movie selection you had. Thanks to you, I saw two of my all-time favorite movies for the first time: MINNIE AND MOSKOWITZ and A CANTERBURY TALE. This carefully chosen collection wasn't a bit snobby; it included everything from Abbott and Costello to Fred Zinnemann. To the shy, elderly librarian who selected these movies, I must apologize. I realize I frightened you with my enthusiastic praise of your videos, but I truly do admire your taste. I'm sorry that my wild gesticulations nearly knocked off your bifocals.

Did I mention your bathroom? Clean, well-stocked, and roomy, one stall was as big as my old apartment in Brooklyn Heights. Whoever designed the low lighting scheme should be sainted. Its soft glow transformed me into a young Jennifer Jason Leigh, as opposed to a haggard Carol Channing, whom I always seem to channel whenever I enter the dressing room at Neiman Marcus.

Drawbacks? Sure, you had a few. Your computer system harkened back to the days of Pong. If you don't have the money for decent computers, why not hang on to the good old card catalog? It doesn't break, and it's fun to use. The fact that you kept the terminals hidden in random stacks was also perplexing. In the time it took to find a station, you had probably passed the book you wanted at least twice. Also, WTF with filing Isak Dinesen's books under Karen Blixen's name? I mean, bravo to whomever did their thesis on OUT OF AFRICA, but isn't the point of shelving books to find them easily? What will this brainiac do next? File Mark Twain under Samuel Clemens, Saki under Hector Hugo Munro, and Mr. T under Laurence Tureaud? Go to the head of the class, smartass, and while you're up, find my freakin' books.

All of your transgressions are forgiven, though, based on your Angela Thirkell collection. Never in the history of my library splunking have I ever found such a lovely array of her work. Virtually every volume was a first edition clothed in its original jacket. It was clear that the books were appreciated, with many of their yellowed pages bent at the corners or splashed with coffee (at least, I hope it was coffee). And best of all, my favorite of her books was sitting right there: JUTLAND COTTAGE. I realize Angela Thirkell isn't nearly as popular as say, Sue Grafton, but that didn't stop you from dedicating practically a whole shelf to her work.

*Sigh.* Montclair Public Library, I'll never forget you. We were truly on the same page.
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