Posts tagged library trip
Posts tagged library trip
My first realized visit to the New York Public Library left me speechless. I climbed the stairs with my breath caught in my chest not only because they are steep and numerous but also because I felt in the presence of something holy. Two huge lions guard the entrance, giving a feeling of something mystical and creative. It has become the closest thing I have to a cathedral in which to worship. The walls vibrate with a divine energy and I feel safe like nowhere in this world. Sitting amongst the silent I hear the whispers of stories from all over the world. From all different shapes of hearts have these words spilled across many many pages. People have devoted their lives, money, family, and health to the completion of the works that surround us busy bees. That is what makes the place blessed. Pages and leather, ink and titles aren’t what fill me with excitement, hope, and motivation. It is stories. The stories written in the volumes and the lives of the people who created them.
Sometimes I stand gaping at shelves frustrated that I will never be able to read all of their books. I wish I could melt into the spines and become part of the glue and ride the silver fish. Travel from page to page living out and drinking from the veins of each publication. My favorite place to imagine this is the children’s section. With its wimsy painted walls and short chairs it is there I find the most hope, magic, and growth. Adult books can cause a type of reverence in me, like a child tiptoeing past a sleeping Grandfather. “American Psycho”, for example, emanates an aura of darkness (and I fear it). I stand in awe of the powerful feeling it creates and of what I have heard of its unforgettable text. I pass over it. Feeling at this point in my life an overdose on hope and adventure is what I need and will push me forward on my path.
I have read a book recently which infused me with inspiration and hope. “The Dreamer” is an eye-catching work by Pam Munoz Ryan with illustrations by Peter Sis. It seemed to be pointing at me from the shelf on one of my rehab visits to the small Queens, New York library near my home. I call my trips to the library “rehab visits” because I can take out as many books as I want without feeling guilty or overwhelmed. I can hear my wallet thanking me when I dash past all of my favorite book haunts with eyes averted focusing on a public library. This tiny reading space in Queens has become a new favorite. So small and quiet, tucked away behind a food court in a financial building, the limited selection has allowed me to find gems I might have been missing in the overstuffed libraries of Manhattan.
Set in Temuco, Chile in the early 1900s “The Dreamer” is the story of Neftali Reyes; a sickly young boy with a deeply real imagination. Neftali lives with his family: Mamadre; his stepmother, his younger sister, Laurita, his elder brother Rodolfo, and his father, Jose. Father, is a tyrannical cloaked figure standing in doorways demanding Neftali to stop dreaming and make something of himself. He bullies his son into believing he is a disappointment and forces the titles of doctor or business man upon him causing Neftali to believe he will fail at everything before he starts. The paternal urge to want the best for your children; helping them avoid what you believe to be your mistakes is definitely apparent in Jose’s character. This, however, seems of little comfort when his ideals burn up Neftali’s dreams one flame at a time, even putting his life in danger.
It is not a secret that under great oppression comes great art. And the questions in my mind have always been: is it worth it? If there was never struggle would we see and hear and feel our way into expression? Would I rather be a tortured soul and write about it, or be at peace and never put pen to page? Honestly, this is an irrelevant question anyway. There is always pain in this world. Each life has strife no matter how small or seemingly insignificant.
Neftali flearns this when faced with possibly drowning with Laurita as Father forces them to tackle the ocean when learning to swim. But where there is pain there is joy. During this time he finds Augusto’s library, cottage, and swans as he storms off to escape Jose. We follow Neftali until he leaves for college; sometimes dropping in a few years after where we left off in the last chapter. There are characters I wish we knew more about: Augusto, Nefatli’s birth mother, Blanca. We pass them as if on a moving train. This narrative moves swiftly on and we only have so much time to see their faces before we are on to the next place; like the landscape from a train window sometimes in stories we only get a blurry outline. Such is life. The poems, questions, and drawings (the later by Peter Sis) add to the magical nature of the narrative. The book lacks structure which I imagine is what it feels like in Neftali’s mind. This is also the most mentioned quality by critics. Which makes me ask, “Really? It’s called ‘The Dreamer’ what do you expect?”
As I think of Neftali leaving for college I am made aware of my surroundings. My library cathedral is in New York City where I came to pursue acting after High School. I scan the people around me at the long wooden table and see that most of them are students from different places around the world. Many of us know what it is like to leave home to find ourselves. And lots who have gone into art careers know of the uncertainty and courage/naivety it takes to follow those dreams. Some of us have done so despite our parents wishes, and so it is with Neftali. As he heads out there are certain decisions to be made about his path in life and looming over his pen is Father. With crushing criticism, literal fire, and threats Jose seeks to scare Neftali into submission because he knows once out of the house Neftali can do as he pleases. But contrary to Father’s opinion Neftali is no longer a weakling to be pounded into submission. One foot out the door he turns to his father and makes a promise. “Neftali Reyes will not disappoint you.” He is full with a secret and like Bastian in “The Neverending Story” after giving The Childlike Empress a new name, Neftali boards his train to a world of possibility and freedom completely of his own making.
My trip to the library was a huge success! I got to read and enjoy the grass and the sun. :)