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Happy Sunday from Oxford's Radcliffe Camera
Just an off-topic Sunday hello from me!
I’m working hard on next week’s newsletter, and wanted to show you where I get most of my best thinking and writing done.
My partner’s been studying here in Oxford for the last year, and I’m lucky to have gotten to tag along. One of the reasons I’ve finally felt confident enough to write about our country is because I’ve gotten to spend a little time outside it. Turns out, it’s really tough to sketch a whale from belly-perspective.
Most of that work happens here at the University of Oxford’s Radcliffe Camera.
For £6 a month, regardless of whether you go here or not, you can access one of the best academic libraries on earth. Plenty of what you’ve been reading in my newsletters has come straight from these shelves.
Something I recognize in myself, but don’t always like, is that in order to get any work done I need to be surrounded by people who look like they’re working harder than I am.
Most days this place gives me the right sense of artifical awe and seriousness to get my ass into the reading chair.
Academia has plenty of problems (namely, most rich people get to go, and most poor people don’t) but one of the great equalizers in my life has been getting to just go be with people in college towns who take their own thinking and writing seriously, and who have it taken seriously in turn. Getting taken seriously from birth is something the elite take for granted, because most of us never get that luxury, and though we all deserve it, most of us have to fake it till we make it in places like this.
I do that by settling in for my afternoons, evenings and weekends, enjoying being overwhelmed, not only by how seriously all the living people take their stuff, but how seriously the dead ones did too. When I’m really flying with the newsletter it’s because I’m blanketed in these endless thousands of books, the collective knowledge of the whole English-speaking world, and those of us burning daylight to dig it up.
When I was growing up, my granddad was on the library board in our small town, and I always wonder what he would’ve thought of me being here. Since I’ve only been places like this for the last decade or so, I feel obligated to use it as a lucky break, not just for myself, but to send some of that knowledge out into the world, to you.
Libraries like this should be for everyone. And really, they are. Working people built it, and working people keep the lights on, so whether academics know it yet or not, the whole place belongs to you.
For the rest of the afternoon I’m settling into our piece on secret US support for anti-abortion parties. You can expect that in a few days.
I hope you’re having a relaxing weekend, or an accomplished weekend, or a weekend filled with much-needed collapses and little indulgences.
What are you up to? Any good libraries in your future? Any favorite ones from the past?
Whatever you’re doing, I hope it’s treating you well. ✌️