What's in a genre?

Still open for discussion: I like fact-tion... but "creative nonfiction" and "autofiction" work ("autobiographical novels" just sounds pretentious).


Oh where, oh where can she be?

Thing Two's cat, Bernie, has gone missing (several weeks now!). If you're in the Woodstock/Saugerties area, keep your eyes open.

Guilty confession

Because my assistant and I are now on different floors, we've started to IM each other rather than use e-mail or the phone. I forgot that my IM starts when I log on, so yesterday when I was at work**, I was surprised to see a window open. It was a former student of mine, one I'd not heard from in a couple of years, and we chatted for a while and got caught up. One of the comments was about the show Gossip Girl - had I watched it (another former student has a starring role)? I said no, and was told to watch the pilot on the web. Last night, feeling rather headachey and tired, I did.

So here's the confession: GG is bad, in that 90210/OC way, and yet I think I'll be watching. And here I was, thinking that my tv schedule was going to to be far less than previous years because of all the cancellations! The thing is, I think all of us need something that's clearly "bad" for us, be it the occasional chocolate binge, buying impractical and expensive shoes, dining out for no reason, etc.. Lucky for me this won't hurt either my wallet or my waistline, just a few brain cells I probably don't really need anyway.

** multi-thousand dollar invoices wait for no weekend


Where's the uproar?

A few months ago, LM_NET was all a-flutter over the separation of children's books from the main NYTimes bestseller list. I argued that it was (to quote Martha Stewart) a good thing.

So where's the furor over the new mass-market and trade paperback lists?

Lists are essentially meaningless to anyone except booksellers and authors. Unless you're looking for ideas for "what to read next" (or to give as part of BAFAB niceness), why does it matter how many lists there are?


Notable Quotes

"The page of the book is blank. Why is that?"

"To remind us that our lives are made up of blank sheets waiting to be filled," Lillith replied. "The book of life is open whenever we are born and it closes with our death. We write in it continually, but no matter how much we write, what joy or sorrow we experience or what mistakes we have made, we will always turn the page, and tomorrow's page is always blank."

"Some people might find that prospect daunting," said Brian somberly, looking down at the page, so starkly white and empty.

"I find it filled with hope."
Dragons of the Highlord Skies,
Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman


Backwards Glances

It's been a busy, bad week, so I'm a little behind on this post (I'd started it, but got interrupted). Anyway, distance can lend some perspective, right?

This past week saw the first September 11 that fell on a Tuesday since thatTuesday, September 11. Once again, families of the people that died that day gathered around Ground Zero/The Pit/the World Trade Center site to grieve, publicly. Once again, schools observed a moment of silence to honor/mourn those that (literally) fell.

I'm not against grieving, but there's a part of me that feels that this is too ostentatious. We can only observe in this way, at this time. Done with Mirrors pointed out this brave post, questioning some of the same things that I've been questioning (as always, in much better language and more thoughtfully than I could articulate).

One point (of many) that struck at chord
But I worry about what we're doing with this day. It's being called Patriot's Day by some, celebrated with national songs, speeches, and red, white, and blue bunting.
I'm from Massachusetts. We already have a Patriot's Day, and it has nothing to do with the football team. The unfortunate victims of September 11 were not patriots. They did nothing except die in a horrific fashion, some by accident of being at their desks as per usual, some by rushing in bravely to try to help those trapped. That's not patriotism.

I also wonder about the health aspect. For several days after the 11th, at MOPOW, many students were shocked and in grief. However, the next week - merely six/seven days later - they were starting to wonder about when it would be ok for them to worry about their lives. When it would ok to think about getting into college, or passing an exam, or getting a job, or their love lives. Was a week too soon? Two weeks? Several months? Every year now, we'll force the younger generation to stop and ponder a tragedy. Is this healthy?

And what about people like Thing One? He was getting out of the subway, right under the WTC, when Plane One hit. He was on the street and could feel the heat and the impact when Plane Two hit. He saw bodies falling from windows. He was locked into his office when they thought the Stock Exchange had been hit. He breathed all that dust and all those fumes, walked across the Brooklyn Bridge to our apartment. His office overlooked The Pit. It still does. Does he need to remember this day? Do we need to make him, his colleagues relive those horrible hours?

Short answer: no.


Thus ends a bad week...

Last weekend started a Run of Bad Luck, one I very much hope ends today.
  • Thing One and I went to the Hudson Valley Wine and Food Festival, moved from a field in Red Hook to the Dutchess County Fair Grounds. It was better in terms of access to the Festival, but once inside the crowds, lack of coordination, fewer quality wineries, incredible delays at Pick Up made our good mood disappear. Yes, I bought wine (and we got an incredible Pinot Gris that impressed Thing One, despite his "I Don't Drink White" attitude) but the atmosphere didn't lend itself to wanting to return next year.
  • Sunday was Brunch in Brooklyn, at the newly reopened Cafe on Clinton. For years (since '93), it was our "local", a place we could go for a great dinner or brunch; we even shared it with friends and family when they visited. No longer. The new owners have changed the menu (sometimes, if it ain't broke...) and the pricing and the quality of the service. Again, not impressed. Time was when you'd walk in and the second you were seated you were offered tea or coffee (or a drink, if it was dinner). Now, with not so many people in the place, we had to wait. The bread offered was mere crusts, rather than the sliced quarter-loaf we were used to. The waiter didn't offer any mimosa/bloody mary options, and we had to ask what was included with the Brunch Menu (answer: nothing except entree and tea/coffee, rather than the salad, entree, drink and tea/coffee from before). And making bacon a "side"? Hmpffff.
  • Work, and the rebuilding of the collections, has begun to heat up and I'm feeling like I need two of me (not clones, because they'd take too long to mature, but a nice Xerox wouldn't be bad). One of my team is essentially a dead weight, and dealing with that can take as much time as trying to move forward while providing a quality library program. More on this later, in my continuing series "Up from the Ashes."
  • Thursday was Rosh Hashanah and I took the opportunity to go get my semi-annual haircut. Ok, it's more of a trim than a cut. Problem is, the place I'd been going to for 10 years closed (something about the landlord wanting to increase the rent $3000/month! and there aren't so many people like me with long hair to support such a place). I'd e-mailed my stylist (for want of a better term) and she'd told me where she was, then told me she'd decided against going there... but a month later I was in need of a trim and she'd never told me where she ended up. So I went to another long hair salon, with an appointment with the other person from my original salon. 10am appointment? Take MetroNorth, hang out at B&N until 9:45, easy... Except she wasn't there. The attitude in the salon was not welcoming, it was almost grudging - "oh, well, if Agnes isn't here I suppose we'll start you with your treatment...". ICK! 2 hours later (while my hair was drying after a wash, masque and another wash) Agnes shows up. We chatted, but the lies she was telling about what had happened to my original cutter bothered me (sorry, but we were not close enough for me to have been invited to a wedding, and I'd have known about any May wedding from my April visit). I grossly undertipped and left for home, with a good trim but a bad mood.
  • The current weather changes have created a serious sinus headache, and the rest of the week (including news of the Patriots and Maclaren spy scandals) have left me in no mood to do any of my "homework" (checking invoices against packing slips and orders, creating new purchase orders, laundry, food shopping and cleaning).
So here I lie, in bed, with The Boys (Lulu left for Brooklyn on Saturday and is cozily enjoying the single cat life once more). Feeling sorry for myself? You bet. And hoping that when I wake tomorrow I'll be filled with vim and vigor and ready to tackle Mt. Workpile.

Once more... with gifting

BAFAB is the first week in October.


Remember, this is a reminder, not a "buy Lazygal books" post! However, if you need suggestions, check out the Gifting and Good Reads links. You won't be sorry.


Putting it all in perspective

Two of my staff are having a difficult time with the whole "life after the fire" thing. I can understand part of it, but there's a part of me that says that it's not a tragedy (certainly not in the classical sense, and not even in the modern one).

Then, over at Post of the Week, I read about Suburban Hen's post. I'm feeling one of those gaps right now. Part of me dearly hopes that the other person's feeling the gap, too.

Fire I can deal with. Loss of a person? Not so much.

Book Buying

Thing Two's sister is writing a book and is now in the "thinking about marketing" phase. By "thinking about", I mean deciding about website presentation and blog linkage and MySpace and Facebook and all that.

One thought was that people like me could talk about and link to the book's site. Here's my query: among all my many readers, how many of you would actually do that? And then stick around that site to comment and link to it from your blogs? My guess is that the younger readers out there might, but that we old fogies won't. I'd also not go to the social networking sites to find out about books, but then that's because I don't go to those sites for anything.

And then there's blurbs. I hate 'em, and my students think they're bad because they're not an abstract (they want to know what the book is about, not read other people's quick take).

Any thoughts?


Travel Update (belated)

I realized that I posted about What I Saw on My Vacation, but not What I Did. Naughty me!

Edinburgh is one of those very walkable cities, and lucky for visitors they've kept so much of the old look/feel. One of the things I like doing when I visit a new place (or revisit a place after a long time) is to take one of those guided bus tours. Now, I admit that I hate them in NYC, so I'm sure that the natives in whichever city I'm in feel the same. Still, they're so wonderful for getting a sense of what the city looks like and how it's laid out. Despite it being Edinburgh, I managed to get a sunburn!

The second day we were there we went to Inchcolm. There is an old riddle asking How Many Inches Is the Forth, and now I know because I've been to one. The grey (and ultimately rainy) day was a perfect setting for this trip -- the romance of the Abbey, the squawking of the gulls all seemed slightly otherworldly. We'd have explored more had the birds been more welcoming, and we were disappointed that we didn't see any seals, dolphins or puffins. On our way back to Edinburgh, we had a pub lunch at the Hawes Inn and then wandered through South Queensferry. Turns out, we'd chosen the day of the Burry Man festival - lucky us!

Day Three found us wandering the Royal Mile, walking to Holyrood Palace and then up the Mound to Edinburgh Castle. First of all, this was all done in a non-stop rain, so there was some discomfort all around. Second, Thing One doesn't like to listen to docents or read guidebooks, which I find a bit problematic (not as problematic as Thing Two's insistence on reading/looking at Absolutely Everything). There's been a push towards iPod/Playaway-like guides, replacing the docents would would talk to you and answer questions. At Holyrood, I remembered a painting of David Rizzio (I think - it's been 25 years!) that was painted in such a way as to have the eyes follow you around the room. There was no mention of anything like that in this guide, and the "helpful aides" scattered around looked about as helpful and interested as a wet turnip. So... no picture. Still, the rooms were interesting to see again and there was enough information that I felt slightly more knowledgeable than when I walked in. We didn't get a walking guide to the Castle, instead wandering around the various places (avoiding the military museum). Again, it's an impressive place. Thing One was floored that it hadn't been renovated or updated, that Edinburgh had kept this as it was. Our American habit of tearing down gets to him at times.

Days Three and Four were mostly quiet days, with shopping and the Book Festival taking up time. On our "to do" list for any future visits is a walk up Arthur's Seat, a trip to Craigmillar and possibly to Rosslyn Chapel. And that concludes the travel segment of this blog... to be continued sometime, perhaps next summer!


Links Galore



Two, both food related:

How is it possible, in New York State, in September, to get mushy apples?

Why would my bag of stale potato chips (made in Germany) have included the warning that the chips were made in a factory that processed, among other things, celery. Celery? Really????


26 (and holding)

I took this clutter quiz and scored a 26
If you scored 25-39 - your clutter could build to an unmanageable level if left unchecked. It might already be blocking your creativity in some ways. Now that you're aware of it, you can work at increasing your awareness and applying some strategies to start clearing it out.
Sounds about right... (þ: Clutter Control Freak)


Annotated Webclutter

More from the backfiles...
  • What is it with athletes? We hold them up as "heroes" but really, what's heroic about what they do? They're gifted, in some way, but for the most part they haven't actually done anything for the rest of us. Some run camps to train young athletes, or they visit a bedside of a sick child - is that really heroic? Yet we worship them. The Caldeonian Record says all this, and more, in better words than I could come up with. And then there's Michael Vick; between the Daily Show and the Wall Street Journal, what more can be said?

  • Lifehacker had a post about sig files. I try to keep mine short, while Thing One's company adds the "private information" disclaimer. For many of my e-groups, a sig file is needed because of the "reply to all" option (there are some responses that belong off list, believe me!). What does yours say? Is it too much, or too little, or annoying or ???

  • Just the other day, one of my colleagues said she'd never gotten into the reading blogs thing. It was said apologetically, and slightly accusing (as in, you're making me feel bad because you're up on this) and slightly suspiciously (as in, how do you have time to read blogs?). This isn't the first time I've gotten that response. Nancy, quoting Will, talks about Blogging Butterflies. I agree.

  • How does my life intersect with my reading? To be honest, I hadn't thought about it much but every so often there's one of those serendipitous moments (for example, and though this isn't quite the same, when I read The Curious Incident and then Speed of Dark, right after each other but without intention). I've resolved to pay more attention to them - stay tuned. Does it require a thorough knowledge of a specific genre? I don't think so, but it does require a knowledge (or perhaps awareness) of the genre, and the ability to link from it to your life, your experiences, other books. It's a game any reader can play.

  • Several years ago, I heard Philip Pullman give the Arbuthnot Lecture. Here, he expands on several of the themes he touched on there. Then he goes on record excoriating children's television - and I have to say "amen". While I think he misreads the Chronicles of Narnia, I can't fault him on either of these issues.

  • And while we're on this literary kick, let's talk about reading lists. I've kept them, starting with a list at the back of a book my mother gave me when I was a mere teen. As Stefani says, though, when people recommend books to a reader, it can get messy.

  • As school starts, and as I rebuild the library, one thing I have to keep in mind is what reality is for our students. I'm talking about things like multitasking, which I (and others) am not convinced is actually a good thing.


Laboring Away

So far this weekend, I've updated the library website... written two columns... done three loads of laundry... gotten caught up on my videos... and what, pray tell, has The Gang been doing?

Notable Quotes

But how do you do that when the whole God thing is in question? If you're Christian, you've got it made. Being Christian, like being white, seems to be the default in this country - it's something you only have to identify if you are other than. Also, you've got the whole holiday thing working in your favor - pretty lights and presents at Christmas, pretty eggs and chocolate at Easter, and any mention of God just complicates things. (How does that go again - Jesus died for my sins and now a bunny brings me candy?)


Surprise, Surprise

NerdTests.com says I'm a Cool History / Lit Geek.  What are you?  Click here!

(þ: Cam)

Meeting Musings

Since the fire, I've had many people send condolences, as if there'd been a death in the family. In a way, there has been. Some of those notes/calls come with the statement that the person is "so glad that you're there to help us rebuild the library so that it's better than ever."

Part of me accepts this on face value, part of me wonders what they'd have said to my predecessor (I suspect the same thing). So there's a little lessening of the ego, rather than a boost.

And then there are those that go through both statements, and (during the course of the conversation) then learn that I'm not - as I apparently appear - in my early 30s, but in my mid 40s. There's a shocked "you're not that old" (or some such comment). And I start to wonder if the "pleasure" of my being the one to lead the rebuilding, the confidence in my has lessened. Perhaps they were so encouraging because I was a Young Turk, and now that it's clear that I'm not...

So, how does this tie into Meeting? As I'm sitting there, in the silence, I realize that it's not about me or them or the school. It's about somehow doing what's right and knowing that it's ok to make mistakes (mistakes anyone, any age could make) and that there is a Friend I can lean on when times get tough and friends I can call on for advice and ideas. To not be so arrogant as to think that I alone have the answers. To know that strength comes from being able to listen to the Silence and hear - or pick out - the best path.


Annotated Webclutter

In my attempt to declutter, I'm going to forgo long, detailed, thoughtful(?) posts about some things rattling around in Bloglines and EverNote. Here goes:
  • The Mayday Mystery. I tend to develop strange obsessions with oddities (Lord Lucan, for example), and this just plays into it. At some point, I hope to be able to poke around more at the wiki, but really, who am I kidding? I'll never be able to get the references, etc. that are part of the mystery. (þ: Language Hat)

  • Doug asks "what's in your portfolio?" and, as I'm thinking about this, Nancy asks about my 58 second bio. So I'm wondering if there's a way to combine the two in a way that really makes sense.

  • No comment needed.

  • Several of my friends (including both Things) are into keeping up with Whats New in Music. So lucky I found this blog post, highlighting 6 Music,WXPN, NME, and Pitchfork. Given that I now commute 1.5 hours/day, new stuff is always welcome!

  • Getting back to my more political roots, I'm so glad I found out about the wonkosphere. Now I (and my students) can keep track of who's saying/doing what. Of course, Watchblog is still my favorite for "keeping things honest".

  • Speaking of politics, all too often today politics and religion mesh.
    Fundamentalism today is hard work. To literally believe everything in the bible and the early doctrines, you have to deny the reality you already believe in. You can't choose not to believe in your worldview: it's part of your everyday experience of life. It's just there, like air or water.
    Nancy's Apology says what I've been thinking; the bigger question is what can we, as a country, as a society, do?

  • Cam does a lot of meme-type posts, and one speaks about literary encores. The thing is, that's a very difficult question to answer. Of course, the obvious answer is "Dickens" (if only get him to finish Edwin Drood), but I'm going with Robertson Davies, who needs to finish the Toronto Trilogy.

  • Another Cam posting, this time about "nasty protagonists" got me thinking. Do I like House because Hugh Laurie is so good at playing the character? It's not because of the medical mystery (which we know can be fudged), and it's not because I'm loving the way Cuddy can't ever seem to dress appropriately for an administrator (much the same way Buffy never seemed to feel the need for sleeves). Possibly it's because the supporting cast is so good. I mean, none of them seem to be whole people - but add 'em all up (including House) and you get a really interesting person. In a weird way, it's like Herman's Head, isn't it?
That's all for now. More later...

Psychic kicking

The fire at MPOW got me thinking about my life here at home: what if this happened to me? How would I feel if The Collection, Mt. Bookpile and all the other stuff went *poof*?

Clearly, I'd be devastated. I mean, without all those books, who am I? But the rest? There's not so much I'd be that upset about (The Boys, it goes without saying, would just have to be rescued - without them I'm absolutely lost). So then I started to think, what do I really, really need here?

For the past few months, I've done a lot of poking around at various organizing and decluttering websites. In part, it's because I've just bought the townhouse and have an opportunity to Do It Right because I'm not planning to leave for quite some time. In part, it's because of something Terry once said about "living lightly", something he'd been feeling about his life (prior to his psychic kick).

Here's where I've been looking:
So now I'm embarking on a decluttering phase in my life: looking at my clothes, my Stuff, my life. Thinking about what I need, what I can get rid of, and how best to do that. Thing Two would reflexively say "Yard Sale", but that doesn't work when you're considering tossing your calendar from 1975 (yes, I still have that - I was in 7th/8th grade and it's a record/diary of my life then; valuable to me and any biographers, but other than that it's just paper junk of value to any paper-loving insects). Goodwill? Sure, for some things.

Clutter, though, isn't just limited to things. It's also about people. What relationships do I have that are "clutter"? How can (or how should) I manage them? Right now, e-mail works best for me because I'm so drained at work that talking at home seems like too much of an effort. I feel almost as I did when I was going through my MLS program - if you can't understand that right now I'm either "on" at work or I'm turning off at home, and it's not about you it's about preserving me, then it's been real... and it's been fun... etc.. And that's harsh, but it's reality right now. During the 15 months I was in grad school I lost a number of friends. I suspect I'll lose more as the work thing gets more and more difficult. That's ok. Because those people are clutter, and the ones that remain are the true gold in my life.