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My failure to hazard even so much as a plausible guess moved the don to a murmur of mild regret.Yes, well, he said, you Americans have this wonderful talent for broad statement and grand abstraction that hasn’t been granted to their poorer cousins here in England.

I remember her as a small woman, but what do I know? She’s in none of the official photographs I have from my elementary-school days, but in my memory, my first librarian is a gentlewhitewoman who wore glasses and was exceedingly kind to this new immigrant.I do not remember her voice, but I do remember that every time I saw her, she called me to her desk and showed me with an almost conspiratorial glee a book she had picked out for me, a book I always read and often loved.I’m with Borges in imagining Paradise as “a kind of library.” Where instead of angels there will be a corps of excellent librarians.When I was teaching second grade in Baltimore, there was an adorable but disruptive boy in my class named Calvin.Every now and then you get lucky in your education and you make a teacher-friend; Mrs. By second grade she was allowing me to take out more books than the prescribed limit. Crowell’s library that I found my first harbor, my first truly safe place in the United States.

By third grade I was granted admission to her librarian’s office. As a newcomer with almost no knowledge of the country in which I’d found myself, I was desperate to understand where the hell I was, who I was. I still feel a happy pulse every time I see a library.He explained that in prewar Vienna he studied several subjects in depth as a graduate student — chiefly art and philosophy, as I recall — but each time stopped short of completing the final requirements because doing so would have decided his professional fate prematurely, given his many intense interests.(Hitler then prevented his receiving a doctorate in psychology, his ultimate field.) He told us to beware of committing to anything until we knew for sure what we wanted to be, but recommended that we set out to become dedicated ABD (all-but-degree) students of everything that excited our minds.When I exhausted my supply of talking points, the tutor poured us both a second cup of tea, and for the next quarter of an hour, he asked questions about aspects of the 12th century that I had possibly overlooked.In Byzantium, for instance, the prices bid and asked for Russian fur and Christian slaves?People respected history but also believed in liberating themselves from the pressure of history.