The Alibi Library enjoyed celebrating National Libraries day with everyone this weekend!! We all have hangovers and alibis after our own bookathon involving the Sherlock Holmes series in which one was expected to drink a snifter every time a body part was mentioned. Unfortunately the word “hand” proved rather more frequent than we´d imagined:
Other Library Day events were better organised and well supported. Find out about more events and follow up here and here:
Next up Valentine´s Day for a romantic rendezvous in a Library near you!
Perhaps the most distressing of all “alibis” can be found in Martin Amis´Time´s Arrow. A Nazi Holocaust doctor now on his deathbed revisits his life in flashback. In a sickening and disorienting twist these flashbacks come in reverse chronology and so we see the camp doctor healing and saving his patients instead of tortuously experimenting on their dying bodies. And so the despicable doctor makes good, ironically fulfilling our ideal of a medic, one who cures, and the patients walk free. A disturbing enough plot device but coupled with the precision with which Amis can describe the events it makes for the most harrowing of reads:
“Uncle Pepi´” has surpassed himself with the new laboratory: the marble table, the nickel taps, the blood stained porcelain sinks… In this new lab of his he can knock together a human being out of the unlikeliest odds and ends.
On his table he had a box full of eyes. It was not uncommon to see him slipping out of darkroom carrying a head partly wrapped in old newspaper…. The next thing you knew there´d be, oh, I don´t know, a fifteen-year-old Pole sliding off the table and rubbing his eyes and sauntering back to work, accompanied by an orderly and his understanding smile…
As to the so-called experimental operations of “Uncle Pepi´”: he had a success rate that approached – and quite possibly attained – 100 per cent. A shockingly inflamed eyeball at once rectified by a single injection. Innumerable ovaries and testes seamlessly grafted into place. Women went out of that lab looking 20 years younger…
“Uncle Pepi´” never left any scars… ”
One of Aleister Crowley´s less curious friends came by that day. If I am not mistaken it was a young Louis Umfreville Wilkinson, but maybe he came after Reading Gaol. Memory is such a sly thing and too often it plays tricks on the old.
Well this young gentleman approached us for help. A dismal Saturday morning it was too. His umbrella safely stowed, he enquired after a lesser strain of Alibi often called Habili due to its popularity in Middle Eastern lands. It was to be for a certain famed individual.
We were not unduly taken aback, it was quite normal for a friend to act as a representative or intermediary and making such an approach on behalf of a public figure. And Oscar was already enormously well known.
It seemed that Mr Wilde was possessed of the need to make a trip to Sunbury to meet a scholar from Banbury, to whose poetry he had grown quite affectionate. The meeting with the scholar, it transpired, was to be kept, be any means necessary, from the public eye.
The reason for the secrecy was not revealed.
I can´t imagine…
Nothing could have been easier. It took no time to invent an effective Habili tailor made to Oscar´s circumstances.
We gave him details of a very elderly, very frail relative. To this sketch, a few minutiae were added whose particulars could be checked out to the satisfaction of any keen journalist, private investigator or any such prying eyes. And we gave this infirm relative the name Bunbury.
Bunbury was born!
And so the young gentleman left satisfied that all could handled in a tidy fashion, but such was his haste that he forgot his umbrella. A sad state of affairs given the climate of this city.
Oscar took the whole thing very seriously, using the alibi on numerous occasions and even once spoiling us with an impromtu visit in persona.
It was such meticulousness on Oscar´s part that led us to give the whole affair the codename Earnest, . Although the alibi was subsequently used by a notable series of Uranists, it should be appreciated that Codename Earnest was infact employed by individuals of all tastes including, notoriously, a leading politician of the day.
Unfortunately, this alibi -echo gave rise to Oscar´s long standing dispute with ourselves and his subsequent reticence in consulting our archives during his appallingly misconceived libel case and mishandled trial.
A reluctance which without doubt led to his encarcelation. Criminal!
Still got the umbrella somewhere hereabouts.
Madrid, the town I have chosen to call home for the last ten years, has a multitude of libraries that might well have fallen straight from the pages of a fantasy or science fiction novel. Despite drastic cuts carried out in the name of austerity, most of the libraries included here are open to the general public and I encourage the Madrileños to support their local with a visit.
For Sci-Fi we should start with my local, Pedro Salinas, in Puerta de Toledo, constructed in 1992 by Juan Navarro Baldeweg, zapped out of Terry Eagleton´s discworld.
The Rafael Alberti Library by Andrés Perea Ortega with its magnificent Mies van der Rohe facade:
Casa de Fieras:
Support your local library to avoid situations like this one (Bilblioteca Publica Joaquin Vilumbrales, Alcorcon) where local protest was necessary to restore their access to something like approaching a good library service.
Madrid, the town I have chosen to call home for the last ten years, has a multitude of libraries that might well have fallen straight from the pages of a fantasy or science fiction novel. Despite drastic cuts carried out in the name of austerity, most of the libraries included here are open to the general public (especially those in the Sci-fi group from the next post) and I encourage the Madrileños to support their local with a visit.
For fantasy we could start with the Athenæum on the Prado. Founded in 1835 (for members only) it is currently threatened with bankruptcy (2013) due to the reduction in grants from Madrid city council.
A short distance away on my street, is the no less impressive Library of the UNED (Open University), Escuelas Pias de San Fernando built out of the ruins of a religious school destroyed at the beginning of the Civil War. As an anecdote the original school (which was free and took up to 200 kids) included the first deaf school in Spain founded in 1795.
The Madrid regional library Joaquín Leguina was built out of the old Aguilá Brewery. The architects Emilio Tuñón Álvarez y Luis Moreno Mansilla converted the original 1912 -1935 structures by Eugenio Jiménez Correa and Luis Sainz de los Terreros .
Finally in this section, the National Library, founded in 1712 and described by expert Jesús Cuadrado as “the biggest colander” in the world, able to make an endless quantity of items of popular culture disappear, be they comics, stamps, maps, manuscripts, posters, books and even a codex of Leornardo de Vinci ( – the Alibi Library would be proud!)
Next up the sci-fi libraries of Madrid…
I always think of the yellow county council vans of England when someone mentions Mobile Library Services.
Thanks to http://www.thepolisblog.org for the wonderful post from which much of this information has been cribbed.
New arrival in the library:
An explosion, and a submarine is sent to the bottom of the sea. Twenty-three members of the crew have secured themselves in the control room. In the knowledge that they are beyond rescue, they begin to swap stories in the darkness, telling one another their last confessions, their blackest secrets. But one of them, instead of telling his terrible secret, is hiding one…
Check out this link https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/234205
Henry: Forget about an alibi. What you need is a whole new freaking alias.
Thomas: What do you mean, a new alias?
Henry: Don´t worry. I wasn´t trying to be serious or anything.
Archibald: He means like a new name, a new presence and a new personality.
Ignatius: We do those too you know.
Kim: No. No. that´s not it. What he needs is more an absence than a presence.
From Lie is Worth Living the sequel to The Alibi Library