Well, a very good first day. Woke up at 5:15 local time this morning. Nice, cool weather as I walked around the beautiful campus(es) of the Claremont Colleges. I found out later that I wasn’t the only one who thought, mistakenly, that they would be serving us breakfast on campus. So after I gave up on finding food here, I walked into the “village” and had a large cup of coffee, then stopped at a market to get a typically weird George breakfast of milk, a chunk of tofu, a peach, and a raw carrot.
The most-of-the-day trip to the Huntington was great. We had an hour-long tour of the library itself, then we were set free to wander the 130 acres worth of gardens on our own. Yes, I could have gone to an art exhibit or two, or even asked to look at some rare books, I suppose. But it’s California and it’s beautiful here! I can stay inside and look at art and books in Missouri. Not the same thing, I know.
After getting a shot of espresso at the garden espresso cart (and how many research libraries can brag of such a thing?), I walked with U of Minnesota PhD student Melanie Brown, whom I had just met on the van ride to the library, through the desert garden (more variety of cacti than you could possibly imagine; thanks for the tip, Matt), the Japanese garden, the Shakespeare garden (yeah, I don’t know why they call it that, either*), and the Australian garden. Now, much to our surprise and on-again-off-again fear (do they eat people? or just cats?) in the Australian garden we saw a coyote. Later in the afternoon, when I met Kathleen for coffee, she told me that after five years in California she’d never seen a coyote. Me, I’m here for less than 24 hours and one just trots right by.
After coming back to Claremont, I went to see Melanie’s panel on “Books in Series,” which was very interesting. Melanie’s paper had an interesting take on the marketing of the editorial personality of Emanual Haldeman-Luis’ “Little Blue Books” A little background info from the Cal State Northridge Libary Special Collections:
Emanuel Haldeman-Julius, publisher and writer, made books readily available to the ordinary American reader that were inexpensive, covered an extraordinary variety of subjects, and were easily obtained by mail-order. The Little Blue Books, small enough to fit in a shirt pocket, sold for 5 cents. The larger format Big Blue Books sold for 10 cents. An estimated 500 million of these books had sold by 1951 when Haldeman-Julius died.
After the session, I walked down to the Somecrust Bakery to have a cup of coffee with Kathleen. It was an interesting experience to meet someone I’d only known via the Internet, and I felt self-conscious telling people at the conference, “I’m going to have coffee with someone I met on the Internet.” And trying to explain, “We both have blogs” didn’t help matters. Anyway, we had a great conversation about blogging, technology and literature, academia, and Southern California. As I write this very brief summary of our meeting, I’m reminded of one of L’s observations regarding the editing of letters (a subject upon which she is currently writing): we think the story told to us by letters is the whole story, but sometimes the richest exchanges are the ones that happen face-to-face, and those are the very exchanges that are absent from the epistolary record. And so it is with blogging.
Kathleen and I walked back to the campus together, and then I went on to the tail-end of the opening reception tonight, talked a bit with folks, then went to an impromptu, eclectic picnic (fruit, smoked salmon, cheese, chocolate, crackers, and wine) with a variety of folks including my UMKC colleague Jane Greer, Lisa Gitelman (about whom Matt recently blogged, Ellen Garvey, Erin Smith, Pat Crain, the aforementioned Ms. Brown, and myself (and a couple of other people whose names escape me right now).
The picnic, in one of the beautifully landscaped courtyards here on campus, reminded me that SHARP is a very positive conference where even the most accomplished people are generous and friendly.
And as Samuel Pepys was wont to write, “And so to bed.”
*Okay, I can guess that the garden features plants mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays or poetry, but there was no explanation.