How does a library hide in a carry-on bag? Simple. Library spirits can present when two or three books are gathered with intent or deliberation. So when LW threw a travel guide, her journal, and a copy of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil into her satchel, I was there, good to go. I set the rest of my books on “hibernate.”
It’s not easy being a traveling library. I was x-rayed at the airport, stuffed into an over-head compartment, and then tossed into the trunk of a car like a kidnapped victim. Upon arrival at the hotel room, two of my three books were thrown into a drawer where they consorted with a Gideon Bible. I had to hitch a ride with the travel guide and a bunch of brochures in order to get out and about with my facilitator, LW, and her friend, Savannah native VL.
But I did get out, and, no matter what happens in the life of this library, I will always have Savannah. The beautiful old city is laid out on a north-south grid among 22 (once, 24) town squares on a bluff above the Savannah River. Each square has its own memorial such as a statue or a fountain (on this day, with water tinted green in honor of St. Patrick). Veils of Spanish moss, reminiscent of Miss Havisham’s tattered wedding dress in Great Expectations, draped the boughs of live oaks and other kinds of trees. Azaleas bloomed, flowers flowered, and bees bumbled. The air was balmy and the skies were clear. It was the perfect day to sit on a bench and, well, read.
Instead, LW and VL ate lunch at The Pink House (the fried green tomatoes, I overheard, were to die for), and then hit the shops. First up was the genteel E. Shaver, Booksellers, on Madison Square, which sells new books, highlighting the work of regional authors.
LW, already enchanted by the City’s beautiful homes and gardens, selected several books here about local houses and interiors along with some ghost stories to haunt them.
Then she discovered a used books store, The Book Lady at 6 East Liberty Street–our kind of place, with book-laden nooks, alcoves, halls, and stairways to explore. We loved its mishmash of shelving and its bricked archways, fireplaces, sofas, and posters.
LW couldn’t resist a copy of Robert Coover’s bawdy Pinocchio in Venice for her collection. Books about General Sherman (who presented the City to Lincoln as a Christmas gift near the end of March through Georgia) and Savannah natives Flannery O’Connor and Girl Scout founder Juliette Gordon Lowe joined it on the checkout desk.
And then she saw the cover of Tallulah, Tallulah Bankhead’s 1952 memoir shown at the top of this post. Just the thing for a Savannah memory and a good read, even though we both knew the actress was from Alabama, not Georgia. But Tallulah seemed a perfect symbol for a city which is known for its eccentrics and “don’t care” attitude. I confess, I was smitten by the sultry cover. Suddenly my given name, Willa, which I have loved for its Midwestern connotations of prairie and light, now seemed a rather thin, sallow sort name for a library. Tallulah, on the other hand, evoked a deep-throated slip-clad woman lighting magnolia blossoms soaked in bourbon with ashes from her cigarillo and tossing them (with languor) into the Ogeechee River. Or something. For the rest of the trip I indulged in a new alter ego: Tallulah. I think everyone should have an alter ego or two; they make for pleasant society.
More to come: Our visit to the Garden of Good and Evil.