Wednesday, December 26, 2007

New Year's is coming closer, and with the turn of the year, we head south to Florida. Already I'm anticipating being back on the road and quiet days and warm sun. Already I'm letting go of family and friends, savoring these last few days, and watching the weather reports for snow. The news swirls far away, presidential campaign trails, murders and car crashes, the economic impact of high rate of foreclosures, all these seem issues from another country. Each morning I begin with writing, my characters have morphed into their own irascible selves, and the plot has shifted from mythology to history, 1840-1845, Scotland, the time of the potato famine and the infamous clearances.

On Christmas Eve, we went to the Free Philadelphia Library and found very useful books. Their system houses books in departments, each having some books freely circulate, while others, I guess among millions, are stored in places only librarians can enter. These books can only be read in the library. I found six essential books, so our requests were sent down somewhere via pneumatic tube. After a short time, we had the books and began pouring over them. Gold. Allen asked if we could check three of them out as I was writing a book. The librarian said yes! Once home, I checked on amazon to see if perhaps these books would be available, perhaps used on the secondary seller's market. Yes! $213 for one, $57 for another and $35 for a third. So I've skim read the three and later this week, it's off to Kinko's to photocopy select passages.

My sad conclusion -- internet doesn't really have all the research I need. But we'll be back in Philadelphia again in May. Now I know why so many writers thank librarians!

One tidbit from Linda Mahood's study. In the 1840s, syphillis had no cure. One solution in Scotland was to arrest those women suspected of prostitution, test them, brand them on the cheeks to warn others, and then isolate them on an island. Attempts were made to recruit doctors to work with them, but since most people felt syphillis could be "caught" on clothing, kisses, or breath, any doctor volunteering to search for a cure would also be branded on the cheeks so that others would be warned. No wonder few doctors volunteered. I'm not sure how this strand will work in yet, but one of my characters will carry those brands on her cheeks. Maybe.

No photos today. Just memories of a lovely winter day in Philadelphia, visiting the Friends of the Library bookshop and the massive library itself, and along a hall, finding an exhibit featuring pages from Godey's Lady's Book which was started by Louis A. Godey, a 26-year-old French expatriat, here in Philadelphia. Godey hired a female editor, Sarah Josepha Hale in 1837, a rare decision in that time. And then driving back home along the winding Schuylkill River Drive, sun sparkling, all's right with the world.

No comments: