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What Would Jane Read? Episode 29: LFL #3010, Anchorage, Alaska

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What Would Jane Read?
Episode 29

...in Which Action Figure Jane Austen
Seeks Adventure in the Wilds of Alaska,
Visits an LFL, and Meets a Magpie

"If adventures will not befall a young lady in her own village, she must seek them abroad," said Jane Austen, back before she was an Action Figure. So Action Figure Jane has been accompanying me on my travels over the course of the past year, and has sought adventure and Little Free Libraries in various parts of the United States. Unfortunately, we have kept ourselves so busy seeking adventures that lately we have neglected to write about them. (Jane herself once said, "Life seems but a quick succession of busy nothings." But in our case, I would call our activities "busy somethings.") In any case, Jane and I regret having delayed so long since our last WWJR post.

Jane and I were in Alaska a few months ago, where she was surprised to find Anchorage to be, in her view, a more or less civilized city -- in other words, no less civilized than most American cities, which by necessity Jane must hold to lower standards than those by which she regards London, or even Bath. She also found the weather to be surprisingly warm. Having been to Alaska before, I had tried to convince her that it is not a frozen wasteland, but Jane had read adventure stories that described it so, and was relieved to discover that Anchorage in the fall is only a few degrees colder than Hampshire.

I had a few hours free one afternoon and decided to take a walk, in search of a Little Free Library in a quiet residential neighborhood. As it turned out, it was quite a long walk from the hotel. But the day was clear and lovely, and Jane, who contends that walking has a salutary effect on health and vitality, was happy to take, as she said, "a turn in the shrubbery." After all, what else are those poseable plastic Action Figure limbs for?

The Little Free Library was on West 14th Avenue, on a street with comfortable-looking houses and plenty of greenery. As we approached the correct street, we saw small airplanes buzzing overhead, which interested Jane greatly, as she is much more accustomed to seeing commercial jets than private planes. She was also impressed with the flowers that grew in profusion around the neighborhood, something she had not expected to see in the "wilds" of Alaska. In fact, despite her initial trepidation about what she might find in Alaska, Jane seemed a trifle disappointed that the wilds of Alaska did not seem to be wild at all. I assured her that, before we left the state, we would see more rustic and remote places than Anchorage.

Hopping on the sidewalk in front of us was a strikingly handsome and rather brazen bird of black and white, with a touch of blue. Magpies are found in England too, and the species native to Jane's homeland looks similar to the magpies of the western United States and Canada. But Jane, having spent most of her time in the U.S. in states east of the Mississippi, hadn't realized that we have magpies too, and thought the bird seemed like a little bit of home.

The magpie led us straight to the Little Free Library, where it no doubt is a regular customer.

Jane chose an edition of Sense & Sensibility to leave in Little Free Library #3010, possibly because its teal cover coordinated so pleasingly with the teal roof of this attractive and sturdily built LFL. Then she had to decide which book to take. This decision was harder. In the end, she took two (and left a second, non-Jane book in the LFL too, to keep things even). In keeping with the spirit of our Alaskan adventure, both of the books Jane chose were about exploring new places.

  • Journey to the New World: The Diary of Remember Patience Whipple, Mayflower 1620, is the fictional diary of a fictional girl who traveled to America aboard the Mayflower. Written by the popular and prolific Kathryn Lasky as part of the "Dear America" series of historical fiction for children, it recounts the transatlantic voyage and the pilgrims' new life in the New World, and is set a century and a half before Jane's own time.

  • Tracks, a memoir by Robyn Davidson, tells the true story of a woman's journey across 1,700 miles of Australian desert, with only four camels and a dog for company.

Both books feature strong, independent female protagonists whom Jane thinks she could relate to. And now that she's having travel adventures of her own, she's particularly interested in reading about other women's explorations.

While perusing the LFL's collection, Jane and I noticed an unusual and creative feature of this little library: its interior is covered with a collage of pictures showing a wide variety of scenes and images. Very cool!

(The exclamation "very cool," is, of course, my own observation. Action Figure Jane Austen prefers to think of the LFL's collage-covered interior as "quite splendid.")

Our exploration of Anchorage Little Free Libraries was far from over. Before we left the city, we would visit, among others, a little library in the waiting room of a medical center, one in a church parking lot, and one whose LFL steward was a live reindeer. We would also seek out, a few days later, an LFL in a more remote Alaska community, more in keeping with Jane's expectations of the final frontier. But those are adventures for future editions of "What Would Jane Austen Read?"

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