Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Can I Just Take a Nap? = ¿Me Dejan Dormir Una Siesta? - by Ron Rauss

I got this book free inside my specially marked box of Cherrios. It was the winner of the Cheerios Spoonful of Stories Contest. I might not have looked at it at all, except that the version in my cereal was a bilingual English/Spanish book, and my Spanish-teacher self could not resist.

This book tells the story of Aiden McDoodle who cannot sleep because there is too much noise. Everywhere he goes he hears beeping, barking, shouting, and laughing. This is true even in the library, "until the librarian stepped in and shouted 'Quiet' (hasta que la bibliotecaria intervino y orden├│ '¡Silencio!')"

The librarian is actually portrayed wearing a badge that says "Shh". Some stereotypes die hard.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Caleb's Crossing - by Geraldine Brooks

Based on the true story of the first Native American to graduate from Harvard, Caleb's Crossing tells this story from the point of view of the fictitious Bethia Mayfield, a young woman who lives in the English settlement of Great Harbor on Martha's Vineyard. As a young girl, Bethia befriends Caleb, a Wampanoag, and the two become intrigued by each other's worlds. As young adults both Bethia and Caleb leave the island to go to Cambridge. While Caleb matriculates at Harvard Bethia's passage to the mainland is as an indentured servant in support of her brother who also intends to enroll at Harvard. Although young women were not able to attend the university in the 1600s, Bethia manages to use her work to listen to lectures so as to gain the education she desperately seeks.  She also finds romance among the books in the university library!

After she is introduced to young Samuel Corlett, she shows great interest in his personal library. Samuel now knows how to win the lady, and suggests that she might enjoy a visit to John Harvard's library. Bethia is clearly impressed with "the most beautiful room...with lecterns [of] polished wood gleaming dully in the good light. Each held a shelf, snug with volumes..." She also learns that entrance to the library is a privilege that even the college's young scholars do not have. Samuel explains to her
They are expected to purchase those books required for their course of study. These (books) are for the use of fellows, such as myself - for those, like me, in pursuit of the higher degrees.
The library represents temptation and desire as the room comes to represent both of Bethia's yearnings. Alone in the library, Bethia and Samuel discuss making a life together, but as strong as her "womanly desires"  for her suitor are, she keeps them at bay long enough to take advantage of her housekeeping position in order to listen in on lessons at the college. She knows, also, that developing her intellectual abilities will make her that much more attractive to Samuel.

I was pleasantly surprised by the library's role in this work. If I expected to see a library at all, it was only as a passing mention.

It's All Relative-by Wade Rouse

Rouse reveals much about his lovingly dysfunctional family in this series of essays about holidays. He tells of New Year's Eve celebrations, Christmas, Easter, and Halloween, as well as some of the lesser celebrated days such as Arbor Day and "Swedish" Day. What he doesn't celebrate is National Library Week. He barely mentions libraries at all, in fact. The only essay that suggests the use of a library is "Spring Break: Heaven's Waiting Room" in which he describes befriending an elderly couple (Dottie & Ira) while wintering in Florida. They tell Rouse that they read his book America's Boy.
"Where did you get it?" I asked.
"The library"
"You should have bought it. I need the royalties."
Interesting then, that on his acknowledgement page he recognizes libraries "for promoting reading and keeping authors' work alive forever." 

A funny and touching book. One of the blurbs compares him to David Sedaris, the connections are clear in that Rouse is a funny gay guy who writes essays about his family. Rouse definitely has less of an edge, though. Rouse says he has never met Sedaris, but I have; he gave me some coffee cake mix at a book signing once.

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Library at Night - by Alberto Manguel

Using the term "library porn" might bring to mind an image of a young librarian with large glasses letting down her pinned up hair and tossing aside her 'specs as a more experienced lover teaches her a few moves between the stacks.

Here, I use the term "library porn" to describe a book that makes one desire to be in a library, not for the erotic opportunities (real or imagined that might be found there) but rather because the author has exalted the library to such a level as to experience it as a Siren's song - luring the user into it, to become seduced, lost,  never wanting to leave.

It is hard to know where to begin with writing about this book. Sometimes I count the number of times libraries are mentioned in a book, but that was not possible with this work. I marked so many passages as things to come back to that writing about each of them all in this would make this post so long that readers would lose interest. The first passage I marked was in the Foreword, in which Manguel tells of how, in his youth, he "dreamt of becoming a librarian", and while he did not professionally attain that goal, he lives among  "ever-increasing bookshelves." This is followed by dozens of other markings in which the author writes of the history of libraries, books, and reading, of battling censorship, of geography, language, and democracy.

Like an exceptional travelogue, this book leaves the reader with a yearning to go where the writer has been. It left me feeling especially fortunate that I work in a library, and can surround myself with great ideas whenever I want.

This  book is truly a love story for books and librarians.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Middlesex - by Jeffrey Eugenides

For the first time ever I will be using gender neutral pronouns, which I never believed would actually make communication easier, but now I see that in some cases, it does.

Eugenides Pulitzer-Prize winning novel is among one of the best books I've ever read. It tells a story that is rarely treated in fiction (of an individual with intersex genitalia); it is well written and narrated, with a story line that crosses three generations of a Greek-Orthodox family, two continents, and includes an incestuous romance.

The narrator is Calliope (Cal) Stephanides who is raised as a girl, but has a sense that zir genitalia is not quite the same as zir classmates at the all-girl school ze attends. Ze is baffled as to why ze does not develop breasts, and wonders if ze will ever start menstruating. After an accident sends zim to the emergency room, teenage "Callie" learns that ze has XY sex chromosomes, and adopts a new gender identity as Cal.

It is in the New York Public Library that Cal researches zir condition, while zir parents consult with a specialist who recommends sex-normalization surgery, combined with hormone treatments in order for their child to maintain zir identity as a girl. Meanwhile, Cal looks up the meanings of hypospadias, eunuch, and hermaphrodite using the good ol' Webster's Dictionary
...a battered dictionary in a great city library. A venerable, old book, the shape and size of a headstone, with yellowing pages that bore marks of the multitudes  who had consulted them before me. There were pencil scrawls and ink stains, dried blood, snack crumbs; and the leather binding itself was secured to the lectern by a chain. Here was a book that contained the collected knowledge of the past...
You just can't get that connection to others with an online dictionary. As convenient as it is to look things up online, I still sometimes get out of my chair and take out the print dictionary just to thumb through it, so I can stop and learn a word that I didn't know before, and to connect with others before me who have done the same.

In addition to Cal's dictionary work, scattered  throughout this work, are some other library uses, ranging from suggestions to look something up in the history books, and finding phone books from other cities at the Detroit Public Library, to discovering life-changing community announcements, and home libraries as places to work and study.

For more information on individuals with intersex see the Intersex Society of North America website

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Drop Dead Healthy - by A.J. Jacobs

During My Year of Reading "Year of" Books I read two of Jacob's "stunt lit" memoirs: The Year of Living Biblically and The Know-It-All in which he attempts to live by all of the Bible's 700 + rules; and reads the entire Encyclopedia Britannica A-Z, respectively. In reviewing my blog posts on these two books, I notice that I never wrote anything about Jacobs having used a library. Perhaps he did, and I didn't blog about it, but I really made a point that year of including such things. It appears we are now one for three. In this work Jacobs spends two years trying out a variety of diets, and exercise regimes in his "humble quest for bodily perfection." Each chapter focuses on one body part. Each month Jacobs researches what he can about the body part, and why it is important for it to be healthy, and how to make it so. One chapter is about the brain, but he never mentions going to the library during that month. The only chapter that suggests he did any research in a library is "The Bladder" (in which he goes on a 3-day juice fast). He tells of returning home after having "spen[t] the day at the library, books" to find his wife irritable after having spent the day with the kids, and consuming nothing but juice all day. She gave up her fast at that point.

Like his other books, this one is self-deprecating, funny, and left this reader with some food for thought, without having to go to all the trouble of taking on the crazy project herself.

The Last Lullaby-the movie

The beautiful librarian, Sarah, is the target of hitman, Price. So lovely, and so smart, how can he not fall for her? And who hired him to kill her anyway? And why? This was an excellent thriller. There were some unexpected twists and a gratifying ending.

At first James and I were puzzled as to how Sarah could live in such a well-appointed home, with an indoor pool, on a public librarian's salary, but all is explained to our satisfaction.

More at

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Little Erin Merryweather - the movie

Last week, on our Bridgewaters Project blog, James and I wrote about the film A Small Circle of Friends which includes a scene filmed on the Bridgewater State University campus (as well as some library scenes). In searching for other films with Bridgewater connections, James discovered a recent indy film 

The most important thing to know about Erin is that she works in the college library. The movie was filmed almost entirely on location at Bridgewater State University, with some exceptions including the library scenes, which were filmed at the Middleborough (Massachusetts) Public Library (for interior scenes) and a creepy-looking building (which we believe to be the Pratt Free School) for exterior scenes. For those who are prone to over-analyzing movies from a library standpoint this will be problematic. It is too obviously a public library, and way too small to serve the fictitious Willow Ridge State College campus. However, there were several scenes in which students were directed by their professor to use the library for research, which almost made up for any other inconsistencies.There were some long shots of the campus in which the Clement C. Maxwell Library building was visible, but it was not identified as such. It was actually rare fun to watch this horror film (something that is generally out of my genre set of things to view). The gore was pretty mild, and I was too busy identifying landmarks to be bothered by the blood, anyway.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Going Bovine - by Libba Bray

One can only guess how much the author must love libraries, in order to have changed her name to something that looked, and sounded like the word. Born with Bray as her last name, she changed her first name from Martha, to Libba.

This book answers that age old question "What happens when a teenager afflicted with mad-cow disease, a hypochondriac dwarf, an enchanted garden gnome, and a Goth angel take a road trip in a quest to save the world?"

In his brain-sponge-ified delirium, 16-year old Cameron begins to lose some of his youthful cynicism, and starts to remember some better times, back when he didn't think his parents were useless, and when his twin sister, Jenna, was still his friend.

Recollections of libraries, of course, are good ones. As Cameron's mother reads Don Quixote to him in the hospital she recalls taking him to the library when he was little, when she'd let him pick out five books, and he could never wait to get home to read them. At first Cameron doesn't share this memory, but later it comes back to him.
Crystal clear I could see myself sitting in my mom's lap over near the water fountain, and she was reading some rhyming book about monsters to me. She had on sandals and she smelled good, like shampoo. And I was happy. How did I manage to forget that?
In what one might analogize as his "siren's song" Cameron and his friends get waylaid at CESSNAB (the Church of Everlasting Satisfaction and Snack 'N' Bowl) where everyone is happy. Well, everyone except Library Girl. Library Girl is fed up with stocking thousands of copies of Don't Hurt Your Happiness, and nothing else. As she explains to Cameron, Don Quixote is "complicated" and some readers "felt inadequate about not understanding it right away" which introduced "nonpositive feelings". Furthermore Catcher in the Rye  was "very angry, very negative" and included prostitutes and "bad words"; Lord of the Flies was "too violent"; and comic books were "scary," "dark" and the superheroes' "unattainable powers...might make kids feel bad about themselves". Even Winnie-the-Pooh was verboten. Library Girl does what any librarian worth her salt would do when faced with censorship: she starts a revolution - giving away forbidden reading materials, and taking over the CESSNAB airwaves. She is perhaps my favorite "library book" character so far.

This book is written for teenagers, and I wonder how many of them will understand the description of the "card-catalog-sized drawers" from whence Cameron's "magic screw" is delivered. For those who don't get it, see my Library Book post for a description and picture. Also see Dance of the Card Catalog.

An irreverent romp - I read this book at the suggestion of my sister, who knows that I like quirky things (and that I hate censorship).

More information at http:/

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