Your agent e-mails politely, but persistently. Your book . . . Is it ready to show to publishers yet?
The theater festival deadline is drawing near. They need to see the script.
Things are pressing. Working at home is good—but there are distractions. Family members, pets, chores stare you in the face. What to do? A quiet place—a sanctuary—is what's needed. One could scribble in a notebook (or a laptop?) in the back of a church, but that might draw notice. A library: the perfect solution. But not just any library—the good old-fashioned kind. Where no one need say "Shh."
The New York Society Library, of course.
When Joyce Carol Oates gave me permission to adapt her novella Zombie into a one-man play, I got myself to the Society Library, double-quick. I wandered through the stacks, thinking of the Cheevers, the Roosevelts, Lillian Hellman, W.H. Auden—all the famous authors who have looked at, and touched the same books. Not to mention the famous ledgers upstairs listing original Library members—George Washington, John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, many others. Should I have worn a tie?
I checked out the maximum-allowed-number of Joyce Carol Oates books, which made a stack two feet high (literally). The librarian remarked drolly, "Youíll never catch up." A reference to Oates's famous prolific-ness. Very Society Library.
I wrote most of the script of Zombie at the Library—in the Members Room, the Whitridge Room, those little desks in the stacks . . . Members will understand. At the Library, you feel safe. Understood. Appreciated as a writer. Writing is considered to be an important occupation. Perhaps even vital. Necessary. Critical to survival.
When I visit a new town, I make a point to visit the churches and the library. Why? To me, they are the most important public spaces. (I don't visit town halls, though perhaps I should.) These are public spaces that honor thought, feeling, quiet, reflection, repose—even communion.
How absurd, in modern times. Shouldn't you rush to your next appointment? Madly look down your to-do list, make a dozen meaningless calls? No. Many times, it's better to sit still. In a comfortable chair. To quiet yourself, and your mind. To think.
But isn't that a waste of time?
No. Thinking is one of the most productive things we can ever do. The New York Society Library is one of the best places in New York to think. Maybe in the world.