Friday, December 30, 2011

Look at Me - by Anita Brookner

Frances Hinton works in a medical library, this, along with her too-big London flat are the setting for what is  a rather dull life. Frances specializes in archiving historic, pictorial material "an encyclopedia of illness and death." She goes on to say, as only a librarian would "[p]roblems of human behavior still continue to baffle us, but at least in the Library we have them properly filed." As any librarian will tell you, there are certain "library people" who come to the library all the time. Hinton suspects that some of her regular patrons come "because the Library is so very well heated." There is a lot more description of the library, and its regular users, as the book is largely a description of Frances' life. Through some of the library regulars she is able to get a sort of respite from her otherwise banal life. She begins to socialize and starts to date a man named James, but the book only scratches the surface of what she thinks of all this. She seems to be an observer to her own life, and is manipulated by her new friends. It is almost as if she is their pet, and like children who grow weary once the novelty of the pet has worn off, and they realize they have responsibilities to it, the new friends, and her beau discard her.

The library is where much of the action of the novel takes place, but I imagine the same story could probably have been told if Frances had been a waitress.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Yes, Virginia, there is a Librarian

In searching recently for some fun holidy fare to watch on our Netflix Roku, we discovered a Christmas short we had not seen before. Yes, Virginia  is a animated re-telling of the story of eight-year old Virginia O'Hanlon, who, in 1897, wrote to the editor of the New York Sun to ask if Santa Claus was real. This is a sweet family film, which had a special bonus of a scene in which Virginia and her friend go to the library to ask for help researching Santa. They get assistance from a rather traditional looking, yet enthusiastic, librarian who helps them find information on Santas of many lands. In the pictured scene, the librarian is actually shushing herself when she gets too carried away with the research.

See Virginia's originial letter, and editor's response, in this post from Newseum

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Time Traveler's Wife

James and I watched the movie version of the Time Traveler's Wife earlier this month. It is remarkable that I decided to read this book at all, considering how much I disliked the film. the novel, however, is quite good. In fact, I could hardly put it down. Henry DeTramble is a time traveler, and a librarian. He cannot control his time travel, where he goes, when he goes or where or when he arrives. What is always true for him though, is that when he travels he arrives at his destination without his clothes, or anything else that is not part of his person. Henry's wife, Clare, has known Henry since she was a little girl, although he always appeared to her as a grown man. Much of the story is about their relationship before they meet in "real time". Twenty-eight year old Henry has actually never met Clare, when she recognizes him at the Newberry Library in Chicago where he works. While other women might have to go on faith believing that the alcoholic, party animal, womanizer will be able to settle down to married life, Clare knows it will happen all along, and pays no heed to her friends' warnings.

I did not bother to count how many times libraries were mentioned, but I did mark a few passages that were especially intriguing to me. There were a few places where the librarian stereotype was made clear. One of Henry's acquaintances asks him to play her boyfriend for her family at Chirstmas dinner. She implores him "You're a presentable young person of the male gender. Hell, you're a librarian (emphasis in original). Henry even recognizes the stereotype himself when he visits his library school friend, Ben, of whom Henry says "More than anyone else I know, Ben looks like a librarian". Ironic, of course, is that Ben never finished his MLS, and instead provides back-alley meds to those in need. However much Ben must look like a librarian, Henry apparently doesn't, or at least so says Clare's friend Helen who remarks "we hear that you are a librarian. But you don't look like a librarian." To which Henry retorts "[a]ctually I am a Calvin Klein underwear model. The librarian thing is just a front". 

The library is a place where much time travel takes place, both to-ing and fro-ing.  And it is in the library of the Field Museum that five-year old Henry is mentored in time-travel survival by his 24-year old self. It is in Henry's own workplace that his boss and co-workers finally learn why Henry appears to have such a penchant for "airing out his johnson" when two of his selfs (one buck naked) show up at the same time. He explains to his colleagues about "the lying, and the stealing, and the fear...and trying to have a normal life 'and part of having a normal life is having a normal job'". To which one of his co-workers responds "I wouldn't really call this a normal job." Touché.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Ten - A movie with a Spanish-speaking librarian

My very first post on this blog I expressed gratitude to Martin Raish for inspiring this blog with his "Librarians in the Movies" webpage. Martin has since retired and no longer maintains the page. I have seen a few library movies that are not on his page, but so far have not posted about them. I could not hold myself back, however, from writing about The Ten, an exceptionally irreverent look at the Ten Commandments. The movie comprises 10 vingnettes (some of which are tied to each other) and connecting each section is a story of the movie director (played by Paul Rudd) and his wife. The stories are crazy silly. One wonders exactly which drug induced them.

We wound up watching this movie because it hasWynona Ryder in it. We have been fans since we saw her in that classic '80s "mean girl" film Heathers in 1988. Ryder did not play the librarian in this one though. This was ably done by Gretchen Mol. The best part about Mol's character (Gloria Jennings) was that she also spoke Spanish. Gloria travels to Mexico on a long vacation where she meets and falls in love with a young man named Jesus. She soon discovers that the man she is dating is, in fact, the son of God, in town for the Second Coming. He is taking his time, however, getting around to the Apocolypse since he has found other, more interesting, things to do. When Gloria realizes she cannot maintain a long-term romantic relationship with the Savior, she calls it quits and marries Oliver, a co-worker to whom she has no physical attraction. Hmmm. This actually sounds eeriliy like the thirty-something librarian mentioned in my post about the book Your Daughter's Bedroom that I wrote earlier this week. A little spooky, I must say.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Your Daughter's Bedroom: Insights for Raising Confident Women - by Joyce T. McFadden

McFadden's book is based on questionaires answered by 450 women of various backgrounds crossing cultural, age, educational attainment, and socio-economic statuses. Women were asked to respond to as many of the 63 different surveys they wanted, and the book is based on the three most frequently answered. These were the questions that asked about menstruation; mother/daughter relationships; and masturbation. Part of what she explores in the book is why these were the things women were most likely to respond to. What was it that made women want to tell about these things, and find out what other women were saying about them as well (aside from the obvious reason - that they all begin with the letter "m").

In 1992 Will Manley was fired from the now defunct Wilson Library Bulletin for publishing the "Librarians and Sex" survey. Although the Bulletin never ran the results of the 5,000 plus surveys received, the results are not hard to find. Most astonishing to the world at large was the discovery that most librarians actually DO have sex (see the full results here). So, it did not surprise me at all to find libraries and librarians mentioned in this work. Libraries were mentioned twice, once in a simple acknowledgement that survey respondents might have used a library computer to answer the questions, and the other was the author's memory of walking through her "college library and noticing that about half the students would be twirling, pulling, or stroking their hair while they were studying. Although she calls this masturbatory behavior, she explains "[they] weren't doing for arousal; they were doing it to enhance the clam need to focus. So it is with children [when they masturbate]." Since I work in a college library I will probably notice this behavior all the time, now.

Continuing with the masturbation question McFadden says that women are unlikely to talk about masturbation with their daughters because "we don't want to be seen as perverts, but also because we're so afraid they'll wonder if we masturbate...." She goes on to explain that while it may be true that our daughter may wonder, whether we discuss it or not, they will also wonder if the mailman, librarian, hot guy at the movie theatre, or new girl at school are doing it as well. Manley's questionnaire did not address this issue. Perhaps it's time for another survey.

The last reference to a librarian comes very near the end of the book when McFadden quotes "a librarian in her late thirties" who answers the survey question "If you have ever fallen out of love, when did this happen?" 
I wouldn't call it love, but he has demonstrated that he enjoys having me in his life and I feel bad that I don't reciprocate. I wish he'd fall over dead.
I am surprised how often I find out about people who are not in love with their partners. Some say they were never in love. What keeps these people together?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

On the first day of Christmas...

Here is a project whose time has come: The Banned Books Advent Calendar! Each day until Christmas a banned book video will be featured on the Vimeo Banned Books channel.

Day 1, Banned Books Calendar from Entressen kirjasto on Vimeo.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Bed - by David Whitehouse

I noticed this book on my library's leisure reading shelf after I had read several reviews of it. I was intrigued by the story line - something I had not seen treated in a novel before: twenty-five year old Malcolm Ede goes to bed and decides never to come out. Over the course of twenty years he becomes a behemoth at over 1,000 pounds, and unable to leave his bed (now made of two king size mattresses and a twin bound together) even if he wanted to. His family (mother, father, and brother) are all bound to him in different ways, as is his girlfriend, Lou. The story is narrated by Malcolm's brother whose name we never find out. Malcolm acquires a cult/celebrity status and his sibling is regularly asked if he is "Malcolm Ede's brother" by strangers, and so it is by this he is identified in the story.

The non-linear narration alternates between one particular day, the seven thousand four hundred and eighty-third of Malcolm's self-imposed confinement, and descriptions of Malcolm and his brother's pasts, both prior to, and following, Malcolm's decision. Through this we see some insight into both men's psyches, as well as their parents', and learn that the narrator has more "selves" than simply that of "Malcolm Ede's brother".

Library was used as metaphor in this book, and only one time. As a child Malcolm develops pneumonia and must spend time in the hospital. His brother is allowed to visit the ward only one time, and is distracted in thoughts of "what wearing an oxygen mask tastes like" when he bumps into his father who "lifted [him] by the neck...He had serious eyes and a finger jab because here the building has authority. No speaking he staring....Like library rules."