Friday, May 3, 2019


I had one more research thing to do for the 30,000-word survey of a year's worth of recent Tolkien literature that's going to press next week: look up a few bibliographic references in a book I don't have. That's it.

Stanford has the book, or claims it does, but like all the recent lit crit it's in storage. So I ordered it up last Sunday. Supposed to arrive in the on-campus library by Tuesday afternoon.

I went in Wednesday morning. It wasn't there. Clerk told me something went wrong with the request. He re-ordered it under his own name. Supposed to arrive by Thursday afternoon.

Checked Thursday evening; still wasn't there. Friday morning delivery? No. What is wrong here? I've never had trouble with Stanford delivery before.

Time for Plan B, because I can't do this over the weekend and can't wait as long as Monday. Plan B is to visit the next nearest library with a copy. This is a junior college that I'd never heard of before, 50 miles away. I drive there in the late morning, before the afternoon commuter traffic kicks in. (And it's already kicking in, I see from across the freeway, at 1 PM as I'm driving back in the other direction.)

Friday's a quiet day on this little campus - it shuts down at 4 PM - and I find a parking space near the Learning Resource Center, which is junior college lingo for "library." (The implication that the rest of the campus is not a learning resource center is what's so quintessentially junior college about it.)

I've been in a lot of junior college libraries before, but never one whose stacks were so small, especially considering that they've got a book held by no other libraries for 50 miles around. I take note of the minitude of their Tolkien collection: 13 volumes altogether. Seven books about Tolkien, of which the one I need is the only one less than about 20 years old. They're all basically introductory books, none of them terrible, but Carpenter's biography is the only one on the essential reading list for students of the subject. They do not, for instance, have Kocher's Master of Middle-earth, a very old book which everybody has and everybody should have. One book is specifically about The Lord of the Rings. Two are specifically about The Hobbit. But they don't have The Hobbit. They have a 3-volume LotR, they have The Silmarillion, The Book of Lost Tales vol. 1, and The Treason of Isengard. Interesting selection.

I take the book I need down from the shelf. I copy down the half-dozen references. Takes less than ten minutes. All that trouble for just this. But it's done. I drive to a nearby shopping center in search of lunch. I find a Malaysian restaurant with more unusual food than you'd expect in a suburban shopping center. Makes the trip feel more worthwhile.

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