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Posts Tagged ‘Cities in Flight’

Standing on a series of walkways spanning the cliffs of Savannah, my younger daughter gazes off toward the library we have not yet discovered (Click on image to enlarge).

Savannah was built on the cliffs overlooking the Savannah River, and most of the town is built up much higher than the river. To get from the cliffs above, down to the shops and restaurants along the riverwalk below, we took either curving cobblestone streets or plunging alleys, or else the staircases that descended steeply here and there at various places along Bay Street.

On one of those occasions when we were looking for a stairway to get down to the river, we came across a series of elevated walkways that hung above one of the descending streets. At the end of one walkway, we were surprised to find a library, tucked among shops providing tourists the things they want to buy on vacation, like trolley tickets and sunglasses and praline candies.

My whole family has an addiction for libraries, and my older daughter has just taken this love to the extreme and finished her bachelor’s degree in library science this year, so we had no choice but go in.

It was just a small branch library, open a couple of hours a day in the afternoons and not at all on the weekends. It was only by chance that we found them open at all. It was called the Ola Wyeth Library, after some old sainted lady of the town, I suppose. It was a single long narrow room with a couple of patrons sitting out of the heat and two middle-aged lady librarians, helpful as librarians invariably are.

It seems like every town or city I’ve ever visited I’ve stopped at their library, and often that was the highpoint of my visit. This was no exception. It was like walking into a friend’s house and meeting other old friends, shelves and shelves full of old friends.

They had a few dozen retired books for sale on a shelf near the front door, and there I found on sale for a dollar, a classic science fiction book from the fifties that I had long desired to reread. James Blish’s Cities in Flight is a four-book series about the far future when antigravity devices lift entire cities into space from a dying Earth. It’s a space opera mixed with shrewd commentary on politics and society, and a lot of scientific speculation that is still remarkably not outdated.

I have been rereading the collected novels, and at a quarter apiece, they are the best value of my vacation. The memory of the little library in the sky will linger long after the trolley tours are forgotten and the pralines are all consumed. The libraries always are open when I visit them again in my mind.

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