Thursday, March 16, 2017

Public Library and Other Stories - by Ali Smith

I brought this book with me to jury duty on Monday. I arrived about 20 minutes early, went through security, and was directed to wait on a bench. I sat down, opened the book for the first time, and by the time I was called in had read the first story. The rest of the small jury pool and I were led to another room to await further instructions. I was interested to see that most of my companions that morning had also brought something (mostly books) to read. The rest of the morning passed rather uneventfully. We watched a short orientation video, and occasionally a court officer would let us know what was happening with the day's docket, but mostly we were left to read in the blissful library-like quiet of the jury room. Eventually, at 11:00, we were informed that no juries would be needed that day and we could all go home. At that point I had read almost half the book. The next day snow storm Stella closed the University where I work and so I had a day to catch up with my blogging and reading. I finished Smith's book and started another.

The funny thing about this collection is that there is no one story in it actually called "Public Library". However, The stories alternate with pieces of memories, reminiscences, and histories of libraries elicited by the author from acquaintances and strangers alike.  The stories themselves rarely mention libraries. Word play, books as touchstone, and literary allusion are all, however, what make up the mood of this work. Reading this while sitting in silence with my discerning fellow jurors left me with a feeling of connection along with a sense of the energy we still get from books and reading, and knowing that libraries still matter.

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