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What Would Jane Read? Episode 22: LFL #2321, Lexington, VA

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What Would Jane Read, Episode 22
...in Which Action Figure Jane Austen Sees
a Little Free Library Disguised as a Little Red
Schoolhouse (the Library, not Jane)

Action Figure Jane Austen and I were roadtripping down I-81 in Virginia's gorgeous Shenandoah Valley when we detoured off the interstate into the town of Lexington. We pretended to each other that it was just a lunch break, but somehow, when Jane and I travel, our lunch breaks always seem to find us in cities that happen to be on our list of Little Free Libraries. (What? You don't carry around such a list? Why ever not?) On this particular day, our list of LFLs showed one in Lexington at a place called Lime Kiln Bridge Park. We didn't have an exact address, so it took us a few tries to find it. But suddenly we were at the corner of Lime Kiln Road and McLaughlin Street, and there at the corner of a cute little park was a cute little red schoolhouse of a Little Free Library, complete with a somewhat rusty but still cute little bell in its little red belfry. The park is not far from Washington & Lee University and just up the street from a cafe called Beameup BBQ, a name that I found amusing but that Jane thought exceedingly odd. The library was an officially registered one, with a relatively low number (2321) that showed up online when I searched for it; but, as you can see in these photographs, it has no LFL sign.

It was a school day, so the park was quiet, with only two toddlers and their parents (presumably) playing around a blue plastic slide at the far corner. Sometimes people stare when I pull out Jane and ask her to pose for photographs in a little house of books. But on this day, the other playground patrons were too far away or just weren't paying attention to us. Jane is, of course, too well-bred to stare, but this time, she was tempted. She was mystified by the playground equipment, especially by a small white horse, a green dragon-like creature, and a faded red motorcar with superfluous wheels that did not turn. Each of the three sat atop a coiled metal spring that projected from the ground. As we surreptitiously watched, one of the tots climbed onto the miniature horse and oscillated precariously, front and back, while emitting shrieks. I had to restrain Jane from calling over there to suggest that the oscillating child might prefer an entirely shriek-free Little Golden Book, of which the library had several.

In fact, the Little Free Library at Lime Kiln Bridge Park offered a wide selection of books for children and adults. But one can never offer too many children's books at a children's park, so Jane deposited three more there, including one about a pony and two installments of a serial called Goosebumps that deal with werewolves and with vengeful garden gnomes. I feared more shrieking, but Jane surprised me by taking the subject matter of the Goosebumps books in stride, saying the content quite reminded her of stories told for children by two of her own contemporaries, the Brothers Grimm.

For her own reading pleasure, Jane chose a book that utterly lacked garden gnomes, vengeful or otherwise. One True Thing is an autobiographical novel by Anna Quindlen, based on her own experiences dealing with her mother's terminal illness. Jane, who tried to focus on lighter subject matter in her own novels, was nonetheless interested, as a writer, in seeing how the author dealt with such a depressing subject. "Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery," she once wrote. "I quite such odious subjects as soon as I can, impatient to restore everybody not greatly in fault themselves to tolerable comfort."

Not greatly in fault ourselves, Jane and I continued our road trip in tolerable comfort.


#21 - Wilmington, DE - #2966
#20 - Arlington, VA - #10521
#19 - Quinton, VA - #11989
#18 Wheaton, IL - not numbered
#17 Homewood, IL - #14784
#16 Lafayette, IN - #5514
#15 Taylors, SC - #12893
#14 Greenville, SC - #1368
#13 Baltimore, MD - #9459
#12 Baltimore, MD - #1521
#11 Kings Mountain, NC - #5009
#10 Spartanburg, SC - #12365
#9 Alexandria, VA - #10924
#8 Simpsonville, SC - #9761
#7 Alexandria, VA - not numbered
#6 Alexandria, VA - #4289
#5 Kannapolis, NC - #7277
#4 Newark, DE - #5837
#3 Arlington, VA - #10419
#2 Alexandria, VA - #5491
#1 Alexandria, VA (my own LFL) - #9136

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