WOE is a member of the London Library, a place seething with intrigue and possibilities. You may not have of heard of it, however if you were to wander to a corner of St James, you would find it sitting discreetly next to an oligarch’s London residence, the latter apparently uninhabited except for hot and cold running staff.
The atmosphere is faintly like a gentlemen’s club and indeed there are men whom you would call gentlemen, men you might not see in the street. It is the kind of place where a sneeze will get you dirty looks and the accidental beep of a mobile phone an even filthier one. The clientele, if y0u can call them that, include various shuffling Lords, famous authors whom you recognise by face but can’t place, young, art researchers from nearby private galleries, lots of novels in progress plus a few screenplays, a swag of Phd students, and some undergraduates who seem a bit like Alice in Wonderland. Oh, and the guy next to me looking at his trading chart.
As you can imagine, amidst this silence and learned calm, there is a strong temptation to provoke. The young woman on my right is doing a thesis. It is a feminist thesis of some sort. The thought of doing it bores me. I want to take her outside and say, “Look you don’t want to go there. Feminism now is nothing more than a justification for women who don’t like what is going on. Look how they use it to justify pole dancing and to damn it, in the same newspaper. Do you want to be associated with that? Go, do something fun with your life.”Or the guy I saw the other day, who placed James Joyce’s Ulysses very visibly on his portion of the desk. “You are wasting your life,” I whisper. “Drop it now. Do not even bother with this book. It is a huge con trick.” I don’t do it but I feel I could save him a lot of angst if I did.
My real love is the stacks. Literature. You have to turn the lights on for each row of stacks and turn them off afterwards. There is a lot of room for an imagination here and just enough room for another person to play with. I leave the Ws and catch the eye of an attractive man heading towards them. Perhaps I left too early? Perhaps next time.
Today I met someone I have been saying hello to silently for the past month. He is nicer than I thought, funnier and warmer. We actually conversed. But we didn’t overdo it. Five minutes was enough. This place is like a great book. You want to tease it out.