I am in the Main Reading room of the Library of Congress. I feel a deep sense of accomplishment because it took me an hour to physically get to this room. It took less time getting my library card then actually finding my way here.
Since I technically can’t take pictures I will try to describe it although there are pictures readily available online. The room is circled with wooden tables and each space has a green reading lamp, I believe they are called Banker’s lamps. I’m thinking that maybe I should’ve brought my laptop in here. I’m looking really out of place now. But of course I’m looking out of place, I don’t have any books and I am just staring up at the ceiling.
I’m focusing on the statues right now. They are incredibly distracting. Every space between time I look down to write it feels like they are moving, whispering to each other. They are a pretty Western group of statues, mostly English and Italian. However, they are a smart bunch for a group of men in dresses. Also most of them are reading a book which makes sense as this is the Library of Congress. But what could they possibly be reading? Their own books?
I’ve noticed that Shakespeare has the shortest skirt of all the other men in skirts. If he were really up there I’d be able to see everything. I would hope Shakespeare would wear underwear, one does not go “commando” at the Library of Congress. He is also in kind of an effeminate position, especially next to Kent who is holding his books closed and has his tired head staring downward, with a receding hairline like a dad looking for his kids in a crowd at Disneyland. Also really, Kent? I’ve barely even heard of Kent and I’ve been in school for most of my life.
Beethoven is looking over at me from the right and looks a little upset. I’ve noticed he always looks upset in these types of busts. Was he generally an upset guy? I’d be mad too if I was deaf but amazing at the piano; that’s just an annoying curse. Looking at him makes me want to watch the movie Immortal Beloved but I hate the rape scene. Its a movie about Beethoven. Do you even need a rape scene? However, I do love the part where Beethoven puts his head to the piano and plays Moonlight Sonata. He doesn’t look upset then.
Herodotus looks like he’s trying to read something without his glasses on. Or he looks like me trying to read his name because it’s hard to see from where I am. He’s also holding a walking stick like an old man looking for directions. Michelangelo and Bacon are pretty normal. Michelangelo looks like he is looking off in the wrong direction which doesn’t fit with how I see him. He looks too much like a conqueror here. Bacon looks like he forgot what he was about to say.
Plato isn’t doing much for me to comment on. He is looking right at me with that deadly stare. There is one statue that I can’t see the name of (it ended up being Solon) who is also staring at me. I think he knows I’m a visitor. I better get a book before he points it out to the other statues. I’m off to get books.
I get up and pick up some books from the second floor. I find the Historical Dictionary of the Beat Movement and Litteratures de Langue Francaise Hors de France. I get distracted while writing because the lady next to me took a picture of herself in the library. It was clever of her because no one noticed but me. Although I think I’m in the background in a few of her shots looking confused.
Now that I’m in a different seat I can see the people looking at us through the glass windows. That is where most of the echo is coming from. The room is usually silent except for the occasional thump when someone closes a book or the crinkle of the paper when someone turns a page. Looking up at them makes me feel like I am in a human zoo. Its odd how I can see them pointing and talking but I can’t hear what they are saying. I’m in a lot of tourist pictures looking confused now. Back to my good friends, the statues.
While I am walking to find my books, Solon catches me walking upstairs and holds his book out to me like I was breaking the rules. He was looking at me like I was an intruder when I was upstairs. Now that I am downstairs he isn’t even looking at me. Henry isn’t looking at me either, the nerve. From where I am Henry has some fabulous hair, Shakespeare does too. The rest of them are either balding or have long hair that blends in to their long beards.
Newton and Moses are by the glass case tourists look out of. They aren’t embarrassed that tourists are so close to their backsides and they haven’t changed their positions. They don’t even look uncomfortable that there are people crowding so closely to them. Newton also has some great hair. He looks like he just got out of the shower and that hair has not discovered gravity yet.
Columbus is my favorite because he is the only statue with one foot forward. I like his position. He might as well be holding a bag and just getting off of a bus in New York. “Going to make a fresh start!” Gibbon looks disappointed in me so I don’t like looking at him. He’s probably disappointed in me because I like Columbus better than him.
St. Paul and Homer are looking away from me, which is fair because I’m barely looking at them either. Homer is wearing what looks like a crown. He is an interesting statue to me because he is only the presumed author of The Iliad and The Odyssey. There’s not much proof that he is the actual writer. That would be hilarious if he didn’t write anything and he’s been commemorated in this grand way all these years. St. Paul is just carrying too many robes. Fulton is looking down away from the rest of us and reading, which is, quite frankly what I want to be doing.
I like the idea that these statues might have different personalities than the people they are meant to portray. Maybe some of them are angry that they have to be this famous historic figure forever. Maybe some of them are really self righteous about who they are portraying.
This whole room is very spiritual and the lights reflects off of everything, casting a hallowed glow. The statues circle the other researchers and I like saints in a cathedral. They look down on us, not in a condescending way, but as if we are their students. They are proud of the next generation of scholars. This is my favorite place in the National Mall. I always feel at peace when I am in a library, it is like I am praying in church. If my spirituality lies in books, so be it.