Kestrell Rath's Library

Mackenzie here. There were a lot of things which surprised me about the Green Man when I first came here so many years ago to work as The Librarian including the Neverending Session as who knew musicians could actually manage to keep anything going, and the fact that time never, ever seems to be fixed as I discovered when I encountered Charlie Dickens late one evening in the kitchen eating a midnight meal worthy of the Ghost of Christmas Present's magnificent spread, but the most amazing thing was the discovery of hidden private libraries tucked away in every crook and cranny of this building. . . .

I don't know if you, dear reader, are a Pratchett fan, but have you glanced at it enough to encounter the theory of L-Space? That states that all libraries are connected at some level (the L-Space level, obviously) and that only trained librarians can negotiate this dangerous realm. The unwary may be eaten by feral biographies. The upside is that any book written, imagined or optioned by a black-hearted publisher actually does exist somewhere in L-Space, and a sufficiently talented librarian can get it for you. Well, these hidden libraries apparently form the Green Man L-Space. . . .

Kestrell Rath showed us her hidden library first: 'Somewhere tucked away in the depths of the Green Man Review building there is a small but well-stocked library that is mine. It is a comfortable room, most of the time, but it does seem to periodically manifest a certain personality -- even will -- of its own. It contains the prerequisite overstuffed chairs which allow for the varied and shifting positions necessary for long hours of reading, and there is a library table near the window with a pair of high-backed but comfortably cushioned chairs. All four walls are covered floor to ceiling with ornately carved bookcases, except that the expanse of bookcases along one wall is interrupted by the previously mentioned window, a tall mullioned casement window with a deep windowseat, because how could a library be considered complete without a windowseat? The window looks out over a garden, or perhaps a wood, for the scene and the season seem to possess an uncanny tendency to reflect something other than the surroundings outside the building itself. By some happy coincidence, young adult fantasy novels such as Patricia McKillip's The Forgotten Beasts of Eld and Robin McKinley's The Blue Sword, not to mention a capricious selection of Diana Wynne Jones' Crestomancy books, always linger on or around the windowseat, as if awaiting the arrival of some quiet dreamy girl child to stumble upon the spot.

Like the scene outside the window, the tall bookcases, which are carved into the semblance of gothic arches, reflect the cycle of the seasons, for while along one wall the arches are created by the bare unleafed limbs of a Winterwood, another wall is all the half-hidden limbs of a garden in Spring, with her delicate uncurling leaves and just-opening buds. The southern wall (well, at times it seems to be the southern wall, though the orientation of the room itself shifts like the view seen from the window) is Summer herself, the arch of the bookcase a heavily luxuriant canopy of leaves, so precise in every detail that at times you think you can hear the summer breeze whispering through the wooden leaves on a long lingering afternoon. Most of Shakespeare's poetry and plays are shelved here, along with Ovid's Metamorphoses and that very first romantic comedy, The Golden Ass. The works of George McDonald and E. Nesbit are also shelved here, and seem to wait for new readers to come and leaf through their pages, more impatiently in the case of the latter than in the former. The Golden Bough, however, with its long rambling explanations of the danger of wild woods, is solidly settled upon one of the shelves of the Autumn bookcase, and it is the Autumn wall which often surprises one. Its details appear even more inclined to changeability, though what -- or whom -- these changes are a reflection of is a mystery. The twisted branches of the bookcases are limned with the tattered rags of flame-shaped leaves. The number and arrangement of the leaves hints at unpredictability, and occasionally while browsing the shelves a real leaf, dry as old paper, crackles underfoot, as if a wild wind had run about the room for a time before moving on, restless and raging as some Byronic young man. (Of course, the works of Byron are well-represented in the library, with his early poetry to be found beneath the frivolous and careless gaze of Spring -- who has never been known to be the most vigilant of chaperones, though she is often the favorite of young lovers-- while Byron's later works brood amongst the older and wiser--though sometimes no less tempestuous -- watch of Autumn).

As for this system by which the library is catalogued, I can only think that it reflects the whimsy of some eccentric previous owner who lingers within the very aspect of the arrangement itself. It makes me think that perhaps the previous owner spent a bit too much time with pookas, or perhaps possessed some long ago ancestor who had a merry meeting with an amorous Puck one midsummer night in a very confused wood (roaming the shelves of old libraries, like roaming the wild wood, is a form of amusement which is not without its perils). To a large degree, the system is comfortably predictable, with poetry and comedies to be found along the Summer shelves, and Chretien de Troyes' medieval romances and Child's ballads under the flirting flowers of Spring (Spring does seem to be a treacherous time, perhaps because all the fey, flowers, and fauns are feeling well-rested after the long sleep of Winter, or perhaps it is that after such a long nap they arise, like very young children, just a tiny bit bored with their own company?) Still, there are surprises, for why it is that the complete series of fairy tales edited by Terry Windling and Ellen Datlow (including an early galley of Coyote Road) exists within the Summer section, and yet that witty fairy tale 'The Lady's Not for Burning,' by Christopher Fry, should be found in the Autumn section, I cannot say, unless it is perhaps that there are fairy tales to be told in Summer and there are other fairy tales which are to be told in Fall, and still others, darker than the rest, which are meant to be told in the long night of Winter.

I confess that many of my favorites are found along the Winter side of the library, though often the shadows lie strangely at that end of the room, shadows which do not always seem to be banished by the crackling fire in the fireplace. Jane Eyre and Frankenstein and the ghost stories of James -- both Jameses, actually, M. R. and Henry -- fill the shelves, along with many other ghost stories, not to mention many of the stories by Edward Gorey and Neil Gaiman, both of whom seem to enjoy creating Winter fools whose mad rhymes speak as much of dark things as light. Jane Yolen's Solstice fairy tale The Wild Hunt, Peter S. Beagle's Tamsin, and many of the works of Charles de Lint can be found here, including those stories about the Crow Girls (who probably would enjoy the tricksey nature of the library very much).

Really, this brief description cannot do justice to my library at Green Man Review, for it is a library which as changeable as the seasons, as fertile in its vast imagination and creativity as the gardens of Summer, and as dark with the shifting shadows of dreams as the wood in Winter. And yet when I think of it, I tend to think of it in Autumn, that season of shadow and light, alternately deliciously uncanny and warmly welcoming. Like all libraries, they exist partly in fantasy, and partly in memory, partly in any place where we love to settle down with a book, and finally, as part of our very imagination.'