The location of the library

January 26, 2016 at 11:39 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

The only thing that you absolutely have to know is the location of the library
– Albert Einstein

I spent Sunday rehearsing at the Geelong Library and Heritage Centre, a multi-million dollar domed building that resembles an enormous golf ball. I was there preparing for a gig with Stereo Stories, a wonderful collective of writers and musicians telling our stories behind the songs we love. I’ve been fortunate enough to perform with them at literary festivals such as the Newstead Short Story Tattoo, Williamstown Literary Festival, and the Brimbank Readers and Writers Festival, with several more booked for 2016.

I know I’m supposed to be wary of public speaking, but just between us…I love it. Give me a stage and the opportunity to discuss my ink, and watch me strut! Just last week I spoke at a Scribble Salon event where I relished telling of my love for Babes in Toyland’s beautiful feminist punk, and snarling ‘Liar! Liar!’ into the microphone in emulation of Kat, the singer.

So the two hour show next Sunday, Feb 7th, is something I’m really looking forward to (bookings available on the link below). The performance space is extraordinary too – a real indication of how libraries have changed since I first set foot in one.

Geelong Library  (book tickets here)

Geelong Library
(book tickets here)

Performance space,  Geelong Library

Performance space,
Geelong Library

Like most writers, libraries have always been a sacred space for me. I can still recall the nook I’d curl up in at my high school library, nestling Erica Jong’s ‘Witches’ or ‘Go Ask Alice’ on my knee. Well, once I’d graduated past the Sweet Valley High series and its, to me, exotic American take on teenage life.

Then there was the tiny library on Rue de L’ecuyer in Brussels, where I spent my seventeenth year – in that city, not the library, although both would almost be true. It was one of the few places I could find English books when the burden of French became too heavy, and it was the place where I found one that irrevocably hooked me: ‘The Journals of Sylvia Plath.’ I fell into them so deeply it took years for me to re-emerge, and I was not the same person afterwards. It was the first time I was ever tempted to commit the ultimate library sin and consider not returning the book, ever. In the end I bought a series of red brocade journals and, ashing my Gauloise cigarettes away from my Doc Marten boots, wrote out dozens of pages by hand, not wanting to spill a single word.

The Journals of Sylvia Plath

The Journals of Sylvia Plath

In my twenties I almost lived at my local library here in Melbourne, at the Northcote branch. This new thing called the internet had arrived, and in the days before dial up modems were affordable, I’d book into their computer room to print out my emails, and take my precious clutch of pen pal messages home. I was addicted to pagan and punk message boards, loving being able to connect with like-minded people all over the world, many of whom I’m still in touch with.


My favourite library, however, is one that still takes my breath away – the Klementinum, the sprawling National Library of the Czech Republic, in stunning Prague. I went there in search of one of my characters, named Clementine after the building itself, and joined a tour of the amazing Baroque Library room. Clementine had an obsession with Kafka, and so I asked the guide, excitement making the pitch of my voice waver, ‘Are there any Kafka books here?’ Her curt, efficient and utterly charming ‘Exactly no’ made my shoulders droop at the time, but now gives me much mirth.

National Library, Prague

National Library, Prague

And so next Sunday I’ll take the lift up to the performance space of the swanky new Geelong Library and Heritage Centre, past ‘The Great Wall of Stories’ and the enormous balcony looking out over the water. I’ll spread out my writing on the lectern, straighten my pencil skirt, push my glasses back up to the bridge of my nose, and attempt to tame my unruly mane.

Photography by  Adrian Carmody

Photography by Adrian Carmody

Before I begin to read, I’ll take a deep breath to inhale the presence of all the pages of ink around me, beneath me, beside me, thinking of the day when my name will be written down a spine on those very shelves.


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