April 25, 2002
I completed Memphis
Tennessee Garrison: The remarkable story of a black Appalachian woman
last night. The text is derived from an oral history interview that
did when she was in her eighties. Her story is so inspirational for
those who think they can't change the world because they live in an
isolated area. She was a teacher, arts program administrator, NAACP
chapter organizer and then so much more. It is amazing that she managed
to accomplish all that she did. But, she had no children and her husband
basically kept out of her way and died young--she briefly mentions
their courtship and occasionally makes reference to him, but he obviously
was not a big part of her life. Am now finishing up the Coal
towns book. Then, I'll have to consult my pile of library
April 23, 2002
Currently I am reading
Seventies : The Great Shift in American Culture, Society, and Politics
by Bruce Schulman.
It's on my bedside table, and I believe I've completed the introduction,
which is witty and provocative, so I'm thinking that the book itself
will be great, too. It may be a few days before I can go back to it,
too much other reading that I'm supposed to be doing. Read
about it at the Sacramento
Bee. Of course I'm particularly interested in that decade
because I was born then and one of the most remarkable things about
the 70s was the Elvis/Nixon
meeting (hell yeah, Presley's gift to the President, a World War
II-era Colt 45, is now on display at the Richard
Nixon Library and Birthplace in Yorba Linda, CA). When such freakish
events of history almost seemingly naturally occur, well that particular
space in time has got something going on for sure. No doubt about
it. When I visited the NARA a few
years ago, I bought one of the T-shirts for an ungrateful person who
has never worn the thing and was visiting the air
& space museum while I was trotting around the microfilm room
at the NARA (and I saw the Constitution,
too!). This is the same person who professes an ironic interest in
all-things-Elvis for whom I bought a lovely TCB
shirt (pencils, too) when I visited one of the many gift shops across
the street from Graceland
(didn't get a chance to visit the King's Palace though, maybe next
trip to Memphis).
April 21, 2002
Just finished reading
Truth, lies, and the unexpected journey to motherhood.
I'm not a mother and am resistant to the idea...really because I read
too much. Wolf's is not the first book I've read that doesn't candy-coat
labor, delivery, & motherhood. Basically this book was a reiteration
of...I've forgotten the title now, but a book that I read a few years
ago on the topic that also tells it like it is. Wolf says great things
about Ina May
Gaskin, and this is one of those times when I'm glad that I live
in Tennessee, even though the Farm
hours away. Maybe that wouldn't be an option... oh well.
Misconceptions was pretty interesting and informative,
but ultimately I felt like Wolf was just another pregnant sheep. I mean,
she criticizes the medicalization of pregnancy/l&d, and then what
does she do? Goes to a hospital to deliver her second child. Talk about
someone not learning anything from her own research (although she says
she had not investigated the topic fully at the time of her second delivery),
or from her own experience! I am too critical, it is not a simple issue.
But her birth decision completely invalidates the whole premise of her
book. Still, the book it is quite interesting, indeed, quite compelling.
And while she does rely on some anecdotal conversations, which actually
make the book somehow more "personal" and relevant, she includes
one she had with her brother that was quite shocking and ultimately,
Naomi asks, "But how do you all negotiate that [that men are
not going to sacrifice a career opportunity] if you have equal partnerships?
I mean, can't the wives just say no [to relocation], or ask you to take
turns [providing child care]?" He replied, "Bottom
line? We know they won't leave us," he said, laughing gently.
"A: They love us. B. Because of the kids." Pretty freaky,
eh? And this is why I am childless and quite possibly will remain so.
April 17, 2002
Yes, sad as it sounds,
I tossed Yonder
stands your orphan onto my bedroom floor last night
after reading the first 5 or 6 pages. Just not for me. Granted, both
plot, characters, and setting sounded kooky in a hybrid Southern-Gothic-Deliverance-meets-Tom-Robbins
tradition, but one thing that I cannot do is read lengthy passages
of italicized "inner dialogue" or musings or whatever that
crap is. It immediately turns me off, ahem... alienates me from the
work. Please note this is different than when I italicize quotes from
books that I think are fabulous, noteworthy, or otherwise interesting.
As for reading, I'm sort of cast afloat for now, bookless...in limbo...
but I do have several things that I must read in the next week.
I must finish up
towns, read Memphis
Tennessee Garrison: The remarkable story of a black Appalachian woman,
and read Jose
Clemente Orozco in the United States 1927-1934 which
I need to review for Library
April 15, 2002
and winding trail
More on Author
unknown...To reiterate, Foster writes on page 13 that ...it
is the perception that the mind of a writer (poet or felon, no matter
which) cannot be understood without first inquiring after the texts,
including television, film, and even music CDs, by which that mind has
been conditioned. You are what you read. When you write, your reading
leaves its imprint on the page.
Foster also describes something that I learned about in Library School
from my main adviser Dr.
Beatrice Kovacs. I took collection management with her, as well
as several other courses, but especially in collection management she
stressed that in making policies, procedures, etc. to always Cover Your
Ass (CYA), or in less profane language Cover Your Tail (CYT). The CYT
was for all the school media librarians who would be greatly offended
by the word ass, or any other word used by adults. But, I digress.
Foster writes on page 70 that Attribution is the one field within
literary studies that requires one to state opinions, right or wrong,
about matters of fact, and it is a wise attributer who peppers his statements
with "perhaps." Scholars call this practice "due caution."
The rest of the English-speaking world calls it "covering your
ass." CYA is actually a time-honored literary convention, at least
as old as Socrates and Aristotle. Aristotle covered his, and thrived.
Socrates, who didn't, was forced to swallow hemlock.
Yee-ha to Foster when he writes on page 112 With a little persistence,
the Unabom case might even have been solved using no other resource
than a good academic library. As much time as Foster spends in libraries,
I'm most assured that he is a true fan of libraries and friend to librarians.
On page 136 FC, aka Kaczynski ...moved about from Illinois to Utah
to California, he borrowed words, ideas, and addresses from particular
libraries that he visited along the way. His favorite hangouts included
the libraries of UC Berkeley, UC Davis, and CalState Sacramento, where
he borrowed academic journals, East Coast newspapers, academic and business
directories, and his favorite magazine Scientific American.
That's about all that I care to quote from Foster. Sometimes I get carried
away, like with the Lippman library references. I'm trying to get a
handle on my bookish enthusiasm, but I must confess, that it is doubtful
that I ever shall. I fibbed when I said that I would read Bourne
Identity next. Since I own the mass market paperback now, I'm
reluctant to read it because I have oh, at least a dozen library books
checked out from the public library
and probably at least another dozen from my
Sitting before me as I type is Yonder
stands your orphan. I admit, my reading is almost
entirely controlled by the public librarians who chose what books
to purchase for the library. It's really quite a shame, because I
feel as though I have little choice in the matter. Books are so expensive
and I really cannot afford to buy each one that catches my fancy.
I rarely find the titles that I'm dying to read at my local public
library. It's usually one of the branch libraries in this county or
in the adjacent county that have all the great new titles I crave.
I picked up this Barry Hannah novel because it takes place in Mississippi
(someplace I've just recently driven through for the first time in
my life, and I must say, it was unremarkable except that I had the
heebie-jeebies the whole time).
I enjoy southern fiction (why I even have a subscription to the Oxford
American, and I've been waiting on that next issue forever!)
it's a genre that I try to read widely within. And, how could I resist
a fly/book cover (what are they called anyway?) that reads Man
Mortimer, a pimp and casino pretty boy who resembles dead country
singer Conway Twitty, has
just discovered that the only woman who's ever truly moved him is
also being moved by another. Now that, was what clinched it for
me. It sounds like a rollicking' good time.
April 15, 2002
was really such a joy to read. I finished it last night and meant to
bring it along with me so that I could quote certain passages. This
is one of those books in which I leave scraps of paper (acting as place/book
markers), so that I can return to the thought later. Each chapter describes
a separate investigation that Foster worked on. One of the most interesting
parts was the chapter about Ted Kaczynski. Apparently he literally haunted
libraries and used reference materials to identify his victims. Further,
Foster gives lots of information regarding Kaczynski's literary influences,
which I always find fascinating regardless of whom the person is or
has become. One of the statements that Foster made that really sticks
with me is (and this may not be exact): You are what you read.
I brought Crane's
blue book of stationery with me to look over while
I do my time at the reference desk this morning. I'm sure it will
be enlightening. Also this morning I've been reading about Carol
National Book Critics
Circle, and Orange winner
that she is), in the NYT. While
I truly enjoyed the Stone
Diaries, I haven't read anything else that she's
written. The article in the Times, titled Final Chapter, since she's
dying of cancer, is quite interesting. What caught my eye most of
all was this sentence: She describes her Oak Park childhood as
bookish and happy. Really, it was the word bookish.
I searched for it using google late last week and found it everywhere,
and although I certainly have an idea of what it means (to me leastways),
I wonder if it's not used entirely too often and takes on rather negative
connotations in the hands of the evil anti-bookish persons in the world.
And why has there been no Bookwoman superheroine, or bookman for that
matter? The OED gives 3 definitions:
1. Of or belonging to a book or books; literary 2. Addicted to the reading
of books; studious. b. Disparagingly: Acquainted with books only 3.
quasi-adv. = next. And, I'm not even looking at bookishly nor bookishness
at the moment. I believe that an investigation of "bookish"
is thus, in order.
April 12, 2002
I never thought I'd
be willingly reading about Shakespeare. Well, at least it's NOT Shakespeare,
himself. Perhaps I would have a better feeling for the author if I wasn't
force-fed his plays throughout my public schooling years. Strange how
forced-reading can exert such an effect upon a body. I'm a few chapters
into the Foster
book, and though there are parts that are obtuse, like with grammar
and stuff (I know how to decently put words together, but if you ask
me whether it's an adverb or anything really complex, I'm lost), it's
really quite fascinating. And, of course one of the great things about
him and his research is that it requires him to spend an enormous amount
of time in libraries. No doubt, he's quite pro-librarian, though I haven't
encountered any exclamations or proclamations on their very indispensability.
I found a website, or list, rather, today that I've seen before but
had forgotten about. It's called Who
reads what? and is sponsored by our jolly good friends at Gale
Research. The Gardiner
Public Library of Gardiner, Maine mounts the list on their site.
Pertaining mostly to celebrities, the list apparently runs from 1988-2001,
as there is yet to be an entry for 2002. The celebrity
name index can be a handy creature to use, if it works properly,
which it didn't when I went to look up what Christina
Ricci's been reading. The problem seems to be a bad link, perhaps
somebody fell down on the job. But I did see that she was listed in
the 2000 year, so I backtracked there and discovered that Ricci, who
for an ALA Read poster and holds Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead,
recommends C.S. Lewis's Chronicles
of Narnia. If you are diligent, you too can discover
what your favorite "celeb" recommends that you read. That's
about it for now, but I hope I can remember to write about the two
or three really fabulous book sharing book release, free books, kinds
of places there in the world that I really want to share with everyone!
April 11, 2002
in my head
I finished Chris
Bohjalian's (here's a
link to the column he writes for the Burlington
Free Press) new book Buffalo
soldier last night. Actually it was early this morning.
I have trouble sleeping somewhat normally, and with this crappy springing
forward in time thing, that just makes it worse. But, it's even more
difficult to sleep when I'm in the middle of a great book, and once
again Bohjalian does not disappoint. What's really cool is that my
mother-in-law has just discovered him too, so that's pretty exciting.
She and I both enjoy mysteries, although she also likes those
Jan Karon books, which I can't seem to talk myself into trying...just
on principle alone, you see.
I'm in the middle of reading the new Nathan
catalog. His work is brilliant. I especially love figurative painting,
but his sensual colors and mysterious aesthetic are so evocative....sigh.
Oh, can I have one to hang in my house, please?
I started reading the first few pages of Author
unknown: on the trail of anonymous, which promises
to be fabulous. Don
Foster, professor at Vassar
forensic scientist (the guy who confirmed
that T. Kaczynski wrote the Unabomb Manifesto), catches those
anonymous authors we've all wondered about via their literary DNA.
about the book at Salon,
which I used to look at daily until they started pulling that "salon
premium exclusive" crap wherein you must pay to read certain
articles. Such a pity.
I did purchase Robert Ludlum's
The Bourne Identity (I couldn't wait to just check it
out from the library, just one of the many facets of my bibliomadness,
speaking of which....Nicholas
Basbanes will be in Chattanooga later this month and I'm hoping
to attend!), mainly because I want to read the book before
I see the movie, I'm just that kinda gal. Gotta set myself up for
disappointment when the movie turns out differently from the book. Guess
that's all, folks...for now leastways.
April 3, 2002
I must say that
I really enjoyed Lippman's
a strange city. It was fabulous, though a bit slow
at times. I totally didn't figure out who the bad guy was, it came
as a complete shock, guess I just didn't pick up on something? I'm
usually really great with figuring out plot devices and endings and
all. I didn't really care for the parts that concerned Tess and her
boyfriend and the renovation of her house, but the whole Edgar Allen
Poe connection/mystery was so intriguing, wow! One of the best parts
is that the Enoch Pratt Free
Library is featured and Tess develops a relationship with a librarian,
while making several wonderful observations about him. Here are some
of the choicer bits (the book is riddled with scraps of paper so I
could mark the ranges of interest!). In reference to a character who
was recently murdered she writes:
Pennsylvania, he graduated from the University of Maryland with a bachelor's
degree in English and a master's degree in library science. But he had
been a waiter for as long as anyone could remember...Why does a man
with a college degree end up waiting tables? Probably because it paid
better than library work and the patrons who patronized you at least
washed first (56). Later in Chapter 10 she writes: The Enoch
Pratt free Library always lifted Tess's spirits, and she was in need
of a lift when she walked through its doors later that day (85).
On the next page, a tribute to the Pratt: But Tess would go a long
way out of her way to end up at the Pratt. She loved everything about
it, beginning with its name, which came from the merchant who had poured
his fortune into it (86).
And, now comes the good parts where she tells it like it is, she breaks
your long-held beliefs about the nature of libraries and librarians.
We ease into: But the Pratt remained the Pratt and managed to hold
on to its dignity, even as it moved into the computer age and tried
to bring its ancient branches up to code...Best of all the Pratt wasn't
a hushed, somber place. Sounds bounced from the ceiling to floor and
back again--respectful, librarylike sounds, but sounds nevertheless.
In all her years of coming here, Tess never heard a librarian say "Hush"
If that wasn't tantalizing enough, she goes even further in writing:
She also had never met a librarian quite like the young man who sat
at the Information Desk on this particular day. her aunt Kitty had been
a school librarian [currently a bookstore owner], so Tess was not given
to bun-and-bifocal stereotypes. Still, she was not prepared for this
ruddy-faced young man, who would have looked more at home on a rugby
field or in a bar afterward, lifting a pint. Sweetly rumpled, with light
brown curls that looked as if he had just gotten up from a nap, he brought
to mind the bookish heroes that Tess had encountered in her childhood
reading. He was Louisa May Alcott's Laurie, Maud hart Lovelance's Joe
Willard, Lenora Mattingly Weber's Johnny Malone, Jules from the All-of-a-kind
Family books. His shirt was half in, half out, his fisherman-knit sweater
was fraying at the collar, and Tess would bet anything that one of his
shoes was untied (87).
Shall I go on? He may not look like the clichéd librarian,
but he admonished like one (88).
And just so you know he sets Tess straight about who he is and what
he does: I have the authority. I'm a librarian, not a receptionist.
And there are other people waiting (88).
Then, Tess learned more about Daniel Clary: How long have you been
at Pratt? Ten years. It's competitive, isn't it, getting a job here?...Yes,
the Pratt is still a desirable posting, even with private industry going
after librarians. Most people don't realize it, but trained research
librarians are very much in demand right now. I could make a lot more
money working somewhere else. But I became a librarian because I love
books. An anyone who cares about libraries has to be thrilled, working
at the Pratt (89).
Their conversation soon turns to library theft and biblio-kleptomania,
a thrilling topic, but not covered in depth in this book. There's more
dialogue between the two until the chapter ends. Tess and Daniel go
out for a bite to eat and he tells her: Would you believe that he
[Bobby] made more money working part-time as a waiter than I made working
full-time? He loved telling me that (94).
Note the recurring emphasis on how low librarian's salaries are. Big
issue in libraryland, indeedy. One of the great things that Tess says
to Daniel later is: What a librarianish thing to say (100) in
reference to how POE would write it.
Sometime later Tess visits Daniel's home which: ...might not have
felt so small if it hadn't surrendered a foot of wall space on every
side to shelves, which reached from floor to ceiling (154). Tess
remarks: I guess I shouldn't be surprised that a librarian has so
many books, but this is a little overwhelming...In a good way, I mean
(154). Then she references a movie featuring Ali McGraw in which
the hero is a male librarian. Daniel goes on to speak about how his
collection of old beat-up books that look valuable impresses girls.
He tried for a roguish smile but ended up looking merely bashful.
Well some girls. The male librarian doesn't cut a lot of ice in a world
where everyone else has stock option and new cars and condos with water
views, but there's a certain bookish subcult that is amenable to our
Then much later on there's talk about liberating books from libraries.
That's about all for that. Thanks for your patience, and indulgence.
I also read a thesis this evening while doing my time at the reference
desk. Only 88 leaves, Judge Samuel Cole Williams : businessman,
lawyer-jurist, dean and historian by Billy J. Crouch was interesting
reading. Published in 1956, well I guess it was just written then since
it never received interest from an publishing houses, its style was
so-so, maybe even golden for its age..... I know of SCW mainly from
the books he wrote on historical subjects specific to East Tennessee,
though he did a few about Tennessee in general. He did write a biography
of Gen. John T. Wilder which I also read, well, basically skimmed this
April 3, 2002
week without reading is like...
I did finish Wren's
Gift upon the shore, and one of the most interesting things
about it has to do with the conflict between books/learning/information
and fundamental Christian beliefs. The showdown at the end pits 2 women
against each other. One tries to blow up a shed containing quite possibly
the last few books in existence while the other woman, thirty or forty
years her senior handcuffs herself to the building. The elderly woman,
Mary, I believe wants to preserve this legacy for humanity. She and
her housemate, Rachel scavenged up all the books they could find and
sealed them into a shed so that they could be preserved for future generations
who could make copies of the texts.
I read an autobiography/memoir
about the only woman to serve in the French Foreign Legion, Susan
to be brave was quite fascinating (here's the NYT
blurb). Travers was quite a wicked woman and wants to be sure
that her legacy stresses that above other things. Born into English
privilege (which I guess is more decadent than most, or perhaps just
manifests itself distinctively?) Travers grew up in Cannes, I believe
or somewhere along the French Riviera. The contrast between her early
years of excess and later deprivations during the war were great indeed.
I always enjoy reading about women who took chances and lived exciting
lives, though the excitement seemed to wane after her marriage, who
would have guessed that?
I suppose that the
next thing that I read was Jonathan
which I'd been on the library's waiting list forever. And, it was
actually quite good. I guess you could say that I devoured it. As
an aside, I always have trouble spelling Jonathan. It's one of those
weird names that has several variations, and one never knows quite
how the owner spells it.
My reading then turned to something more fun, Beth
Saulnier's latest mystery in the Alex Bernier series, Bad
seed. Great topic though, Frankenfoods and GMO's,
really pits the community against one another. While I enjoy reading
the Bernier series, I'm waiting for Saulnier to develop more as a
writer. I don't think the books are as tight as they could be though
the plots are well-conceived and the characters are real enough.
Now I'm reading Laura Lippman's
a strange city. More about it later, but it's really
quite fabulous, except for a few things...