27.9.04

Notable Quotes

"I hate it when villains quote Shakespeare."

John Chriton, Farscape

26.9.04

Why read?

Read on: "And this is the real pleasure of reading: not just the search for facts and information, which we can get just as well from other forms of media, but the connection to another human mind and heart that we can only experience when we enter a world that someone else has created."

No matter how often I use e-mail or IM or iPod, no matter how much tv I watch or how many movies I go to, this is the reason I read. The immediacy of touching the pages, turning them at my pace, allowing the characters to come to life in my mind is something that is not allowed by the other media.

Now excuse me, I have a book to finish.

20.9.04

Notable Quotes

There's one other benefit to fine writing, even if consumers don't know they're buying it. We are slammed by too many things happening in real time, as theorist Richard Powers writes. I'll just offer a handful: split screens, multitasking, news strips beneath the TV news, muting ads to have a hasty conversation, my pedometer talking to me as I walk to the fridge listening to my MP3, top 10 lists of lists, the notion that all stories have two sides.

Only when you are lost in a magnificent book, film or other work of art are you "in the flow." You have left real time behind. As Mr. Powers writes (evoking great emotion in me), "You hit that last sentence and look up. Humbert Humbert is in the train seat in front of you. Charles Bovary is beside you in the hospital waiting room. La Belle Dame sans Merci checking you out as the doors slide open and you step off at your floor."

Time is transcended. For once, we rest.

"The good things in life shouldn't be free", Heather Mallick

17.9.04

When it rains...

Last June, before summer vacation, I oversaw the packing of 107 boxes of books (about 4000 items). Why? Because my library was being expanded by about 1/3 and the books were in bookcases along a wall that would no longer exist.

Over the summer I kept hearing about the horrors of the construction: the cost overruns, the delays, the mess, the noise. I stayed far, far away.

September 7 was my first day back in the library and it was everything I expected. 107 boxes of books that had been neatly packed, labelled and stacked were strewn around the library in no particular order and with no particular care. Some had even been repacked (not so neatly). The wall was indeed gone and in its place were spaces for an ADA-required lift to the (new) 8th floor, a door to the (new) inside stairs on the west side, a (new) fiction nook, and a (new) extension to the conference/research room. The lights were clearly temporary and there was an aura of "half-finished work" about the place.

I started to plan how I'd attack the reshelving, got some stuff out of the storage space and went home.

September 8 was The Day Frances Visited New York City. Walking to work with water filling the roads and sloshing over my shoes up to my ankles was my first clue that not all was well with the world. As I approached the building, I saw a wave of water escaping the front door, quickly followed by a broom. "OK," I thought, "it's just water that got in when the door was open for the contractors."

Wrong.

It was whitewater rapids cascading down the east stairs. It was a plume of water descending through the elevator shaft. It was tiny rivulets of water on the (new) west stairs. And it was 1.5-2" of water pooling on the 7th floor. What saved the library? The fact that eight years ago, during the first renovation, they'd laid greenfield cables under the floor and hadn't removed them during this renovation. However, another inch or so and I'd be as underwater as the rest of the floor.

Breathing an ill-advised sigh of relief, I went back to the cafeteria to get something warm to drink. On my way back, something prompted me to look in the conference room. Sure enough: a rather persistent leak was emerging in the corner. A corner that hadn't had books unshelved. A corner in which we had all the art books (aka "the 700s").

Springing into action, a contractor and I removed an additional four bookcases of books from harm's way. A colleague and I then moved all 107 boxes to tables and study carrels so that they, too, could remain above flood level.

Needless to say, very little else got done Wednesday. Thursday as spent trying to rearrange the library shelving so as to maximize the new space. That and tracking down missing summer orders, many of which had mistakenly not been placed. Friday was more of the same, but plans were afoot to start reshelving books on Monday.

Over the weekend our electrical system shorted out, killing our intra- and internet access. So when I got to school Monday the 13th, all I could do was shelve. About half the books got reshelved then, with the notable exception of the art books (the corner was still leaking the occasional droplet of water). Tuesday, the rest got shelved, again with the exception of the art books.

Wednesday we regained intranet access and I was able to enter all the patrons into the catalog. Today, Friday, two weeks after school started, I am finally able to work on-line cataloging the new books and chasing down the last of my missing orders.

Still to be done? An inventory (with luck, everything that came off the shelves went back on). And all the other start-of-year things that I'm woefully behind in accomplishing. Still, I can teach and check out books and that's all that really matters, right?

Until Ivan Visits New York City this weekend, that is...

16.9.04

Touchstones

Bookslut pointed me to the Guardian article about touchstones: What kind of book marks a watershed in a woman's life? That was the question I was asked to address when the Orange prize for fiction, in association with Radio 4's Woman's Hour, commissioned a piece of research to establish a list of books read by women at formative moments in their lives - books they return to again and again.

Then So Many Books jumped on the bandwagon, listing Books: For All of Life's Moments Big or Small:
Charlotte's Web by E.B. White
A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L'Engle
Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Hamlet by William Shakespeare
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
Dune by Frank Herbert
Job: A Comedy of Justice Robert Heinlein
A Wild Patience Has Taken Me This Far (poetry) by Adrienne Rich
Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy
A Room of One's Own (nonfiction) by Virginia Woolf
Mind of My Mind by Octavia E Butler
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende
Dawn by Octavia E. Butler
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Some time ago on The Readers Place we started a post about touchstones from our youth. This was based on a lecture I'd been to on Wonder Tales, where we came up with a list that included:
Wrinkle in Time
Lord of the Rings
Wizard of Oz (both book and movie)
Peter Cottontail
Puss'n'Boots
Wind in the Willows
Peter Pan
Alice in Wonderland
Mary Poppins
Secret Garden
the works of Thornton Burgess

As I've compared the TRP and the Guardian-inspired lists, I've been thinking about what a touchstone really is. Is it something that is so embedded in your being that you can't imagine yourself as yourself without it? In which case, I'd have to add Goodnight, Moon to the list. Is it something that becomes an integral part of you, as many of the above have become? Is it like a security blanket, something you can put aside for long periods of time but that you pick up when you need to calm down/feel better about life/re-find your center? Or is it something to which you return again and again, finding both your old and new selves in the pages, learning new meanings as you age and experience more?

In A History of Reading, Alberto Manguel talks about reading for Borges. He'd start a book and Borges would finish it for him, from memory. Then they'd move to another, seemingly prompted at random from within Borges' brain. Manguel posits that our brains are the original hypertext: that each time we read (or listen to) something we make new connections with old and new favorites. The Guardian list, and the other lists mentioned above, seem to be making the same point as Manguel did. Which still doesn't answer the question of what comprises a touchstone. Perhaps there is no one answer, it's too personal.

Speaking of personal, what about aural touchstones? What songs and/or albums make up your interior aural landscape? Food for thought and fodder for another post.

13.9.04

Notable Quotes

A novel is not an allegory, I said as the period was about to come to an end. It is the sensual experience of another world. If you don't enter that world, hold your breath with the characters and become involved in their destiny, you won't be able to empathize, and empathy is at the heart of the novel. This is how you read a novel: you inhale the experience. So start breathing. I just want you to remember this. That is all; class dismissed.

Azar Nafisi, Reading Lolita in Tehran

7.9.04

Notes from Mt. Bookpile

It's the offical end of summer: school starts today. My main goal this summer was to rest and relax and reading was a major part of that plan. So here's a list of what was read:

Fiction
Yoga Hotel, Maura Moynihan
Lucky Girls, Nell Freudenberger
The Lemon Table, Julian Barnes
The Train Now Departing, Martha Grimes
Little Black Book of Stories, A.S. Byatt
The Jane Austen Book Club, Karen Joy Fowler

Non-Fiction
The Language Police, Diane Ravitch
All the President's Spin, Bryan Keefer, Ben Fritz, and Brendan Nyhan
Reading Lolita in Tehran, Azar Nafisi
Parallel Myths, J.F. Breulin
The Meaning of Everything, Simon Winchester
Notes from a Small Island, Bill Bryson
Idiot Proof, Frances Wheen
When Good People Write Bad Sentences, Robert Harris

Young Adult/Children's
Stormchaser and Beyond the Deepwoods, Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell
People of Sparks, Jeanne DuPrau
Midnight for Charlie Bone, Jenny Nimmo
Homeward Bounders and Merlin Conspiracy, Diana Wynne Jones
The Stones of Green Knowe, L.M. Boston
Eragon, Christopher Paolini
Running Out of Time and Among the Hidden, Margaret Peterson Haddix
Mister Monday, Garth Nix
Confessions of a Not It Girl, Melissa Kantor
Chasing Vermeer, Blue Balliett and Brett Helquist


Mystery
The Winds of Change, Martha Grimes
Devil's Hearth and Witch's Grave, Phillip DePoy
A Cry From the Dark, Robert Barnard
Burglar on the Prowl, Lawrence Block
Black and Blue and Walks the Plank, Ian Rankin
Amber Room, Steve Berry
Bookman's Promise, John Dunning
Eyes at the Window, Evie Yoder Miller
The Rule of Four, Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason
Unsigned, Unbound, Untitled, Uncataloged, and Unsolicited, Julie Kaewert
The Intelligencer, Leslie Silbert

Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Hat Full of Sky, Terry Prachett
Lyra's Oxford, Philip Pullman

Stay tuned and see what descends from Mt. Bookpile next!

6.9.04

Notable Quotes

"Where am I? What does it mean to say: the world?... Who tricked me into this whole thing and leaves me standing here?... Why was I not asked about it, why was I not informed of the rules and regulations but just thrust into the ranks as if I had been bought from a peddling shanghaier of human beings? How did I get involved in this big enterprise called actuality?... Is there no manager? To whom shall I make my complaint?"

Soren Kierkegaard