This month marks my second year as a resident at the Wertheim Study in the New York Public Library. This fellowship provides me with a desk in a private room designated for researchers and full access to the collections of a world-class research library. Quite a privilege.
Several days each week, I work in the library, scribbling notes, pouring over volumes, piecing together my thoughts, and hoping that I might gather enough material for a second book. What might that prospective book be about? I’m not ready to say.
When I pass through the library’s heavy doors and ascend its marble steps, I know that I am entering a special and storied institution. How many novels have been mapped out in its reading room? How many historic facts have been uncovered in its archives? How many long-forgotten figures have been given a new life there?
My own research at the library connects me to a rich, fertile tradition of authors, scholars, journalists, and thinkers happily toiling away. Such individuals find a late evening or a weekend afternoon in the library invigorating, even joyous. Anything but isolating and lonely.
Earlier this decade, Sari Botton edited Goodbye to All That, a compilation of essays and reflections by writers who found themselves disenchanted with New York City and ultimately seeking life elsewhere.
Since beginning my tenure at the library, I experienced the opposite epiphany. By building a routine around my frequent library trips, I settled into the rhythm and pace of the city–or at least a small part of it.
After fifteen years of living in the region, I finally felt at home. It only took losing myself in the New York Public Library.