Monday, April 16, 2012

The Beginner's Goodbye - by Anne Tyler

I discovered Anne Tyler's newest book while browsing Maxwell Library' small leisure reading collection. I haven't read all of her books, but since she writes about my hometown (Baltimore, Maryland) I pick up her books when I notice them. This is the story of Aaron, who is left a (relatively young) widower when a tree falls on his home and kills his wife, Dorothy. As he reflects on his life, and marriage, Dorothy starts to visit him, at first in fleeting glimpses, and eventually having conversations with him.

Since the book is about Baltimore, it was no surprise to me that the one library mentioned by name was the (Enoch) Pratt Library. In one of  Dorothy's memories, she recalls the first meal she cooked for Aaron, and realized that she had no idea how to prepare steak, so she "called the Pratt Library's reference section to see how to cook a steak. They suggested grilling or broiling, but [she] didn't own a grill and ...wasn't all that clear about broiling, so they said okay, fry it in a pan...."

Do people still call the reference desk to ask these kinds of questions? I remember answering all kinds of questions about cooking, and recipes, and ingredients when I worked at the McAllen Memorial Library reference desk in Texas, but I imagine people now just Google that sort of information.

Since I lived in Baltimore County, rather than in the City, I didn't go to the Pratt library often. I do remember going to story hour there once or twice when I was very young, and going there to do some research with some old women's magazines when I took my first Women's Studies course at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. It is a great library. I remember a true feeling of reverence using those old bound periodicals.

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