Monday, July 30, 2007

i've been hiding myself from myself

i think because i have somehow become someone i don’t want to be (or don't want to know about, or hear about, or something...)

my plants are longing for the sunshine i've been blocking out due to migraines...

this has been going on for some time.

i have somehow been growing older (and how could that possibly happen to Me?) and i'm not dealing so well with age.

(i know i am not alone in this particular phenomena, but somehow i thought i would not reach this particular stage in my life and the particular symptoms that come along with it)

mostly though i'm experiencing issues with not enough money catching up with me (and the creditor calls that come along with that, so i just don't answer the phone), the undone housework catching up with me (i'm not sure what the problem is here, i sit there and wish it done, and wish it done and still nothing happens...and nothing keeps happening...), dishes pile up in the sink, papers pile up unsorted, junk mail mixes with bills and other "important items", i've pretty much stopped eating to avoid the hassle of the grocery store and reduce spending (well not entirely, don't worry), if the cats didn't make noise (and lots of it) to be feed i'm sure they'd be starving too.

And i'm just living in denial. I find it's much less stressful this way. Just reading, watching movies, you know, hanging out, enjoying life. What could be wrong with that, i ask you?

a Faerie tale

In which we are regaled with YoSafBridg’s first foray into the mind of Neil Gaiman

Sometimes i get DVDs in the mail from Blockbuster which puzzle me as to why i ever placed them in my queue to begin with, but i figure that there must have been a reason, so i go ahead and watch them. This happens with books that come into the library for me from my hold list as well. Neil Gaiman's fantasy novel Stardust was one such book. Now what's a girl to do when such an event occurs but to read the book, even if nothing about it sounds familiar~because there must have been a very good reason~right? Right (didn't even notice until after i had read it that the movie is about to be released~maybe that's why someone mentioned it to me~so i'm completely unaware of things~i've noticed that even more so now that i spend less time in the car commuting, now that i have that LOVERLY five minute commute, and am kept busy enough at the desk not to cruise the internet headlines~and i refuse to watch the local news...) Now i must admit, this is my fist Neil Gaiman novel (or so i believe, my faith in my own memory is not the strongest of late...i'm not even sure if that's a shameful admission or not...)


Go, and catch a falling star,

Get with child a mandrake root,

Tell me, me where all past years are,

Or who cleft the Devil’s foot,

Teach me to hear mermaids singing,

Or to keep off envy’s stinging

And find

What wind

Serves to advance an honest mind.

If thou be’est born to strange sights,

Things invisible to see,

Ride ten thousand days and night

Till age snow white hairs on thee,

Thou, when thou return’st wilt tell me

All strange wonders that befell thee

And swear


Lives a woman true, and fair.

If thou find’st one, let me know,

Such a pilgrimage were sweet,

Yet do not, I would not go,

Though at next door we might meet

Though she were true when you met her,

And last, till you write your letter,

Yet she

Will be

False, ere I come, to two, or three.

~John Donne, 1572-1631

Sometimes we might not know what our True Heart's Desire is until we get it. Sometimes we may think we know what it is only to find out we are mistaken once we have journeyed to seek it out. If there is a moral in that i'm not sure what it is (is there always a moral to be found in life?). This story starts out in the English village of Wall (so named for the Wall that separates it from the rather mysterious meadowland that no one is allowed to venture~well VERY occasionally they are allowed through but they are given a VERY stern warning AND there is the market that is held every nine years in the spring, and it is actually not all that much of a mystery because on the other side of the wall lies the land of Faerie, and there i go with my parenthetical run-on sentences again, oh well...)

A question like "How big is Faerie?" does not admit of a simple answer.

Faerie, after all, is not one land, one principality or dominion. Maps of Faerie are unreliable, and may not be depended upon.

We talk of the kings and queens of Faerie as we would speak of the kings and queens of England but Faerie is bigger than England, as it is bigger than the world (for, since the dawn of time, each land that has been forced off the map by explorers and the brave going out and proving it wasn't there has taken refuge in Faerie; so it is now, by the time that we come to write of it, a most huge place indeed, containing every manner of landscape and terrain. Here, truly, there be Dragons. Also gryphons, wyverns, hippogriffs, basilisks, and hydras. There are all manner of more familiar animals as well, cats affectionate and aloof, dogs noble and cowardly, wolves and foxes, eagles and bears.

This might give you some idea of the type of the of world you have stumbled into, in other words, a typical fairy tale, with the typical fairy tale fare, but told with a great deal more wit (if i may so declare.) Gaiman follows all the rules of good fairy tale telling, but with a modern twist and humour (tho the story is set at the turn of the nineteenth century).

Tristran Thorn has promised the beautiful Victoria Forester, the girl he (and everyone else) is incurable in love with, that he will retrieve the star she saw fall to the ground in the East (in the land of Faerie) for her, and she has, in return, promised she will do whatever he asks when he delivers it to her. So off he ventures into lands unknown (also unknown to him that his birthmother was from Faerie) to seek his fortune and his manhood.

Tristran is not the only one seeking the star (of course not, for what kind of story would that make?) We also have one of a trio of very wicked witches and a trio of brothers who are seeking the star to retrieve a jewel their father tossed into the air right before his death to determine who would inherit his kingdom of Stormhold (atop the highest peak in Faerie). Tristran encounters many characters along the way; helpful, hindering, and in-between, but all very colorful; as well as the feisty star, herself. Although perhaps predictable this is a wonderful fairy tale for adults and i don't think i'm giving much away if i tell you all ends somewhat happily~though with a healthy dose of gore and mild sex for all to enjoy.

This is a fast-paced, enjoyable story that could easily be read in an evening and leave one feeling satisfied. Makes for a nice little interlude spaced between more demanding fare (or if there is something you are trying to avoid, perhaps you/me are in denial about something...)

Sunday, July 29, 2007

a hungry ghost

“All things not at peace will cry out.”

~Han Yun

As i was making my way through the first section of Peony in Love, i was beginning to think i should have paid more heed to the valentine heart on its spine (my library system's way of signifying that it was of the romance genre) because Peony was mooning like a lovesick girl who knew not enough of the world and it was all just a little overmuch for me.

But then she died, and it got so much better. I had rather eagerly anticipated this novel, because i had loved Lisa See's last, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan.

Set shortly after the fall of the Ming Dynasty in seventeenth century China and based on real historic characters and works of literature, Peony in Love is an involving tale of an often unknown period of women writers.

Soon to celebrate her sixteenth birthday (on the the rather auspicious Double Seven~the seventh day of the seventh month~for which her father has commissioned a very special performance of the opera The Peony Pavilion, her very favorite~and scandalously enough women will be allowed to watch, though from behind a screen.) Peony is also about to embark on young womanhood, is betrothed to a man she has not met (as Chinese tradition of the day dictated) and will soon be marrying out. On the first night of the three-night opera she leaves to take some air and meets a young poet who reminds her of the hero of the opera. It is, but of course, love at first sight. Peony is destined to pine away for her young poet and die of love-sickness before she can be married as have so many young girls before her~victims just like the heroine the idolize in the The Peony Pavilion.

It is only after death that Peony can begin to see the world and her family for what they really are, even though these perceptions go through a couple of changes even then. She continues her growth process even after death. After death she learns of the relationships her family members had with each other, as well as changing her views about the relationships she had with them. She develops a relationship with the grandmother she has always worshiped and respected as an ancestor and learns to see her as a real woman. Peony grows into a woman who makes mistakes and longs to be heard (a problem of many women as they moved from the slightly more liberal Ming dynasty to the more repressive Manchus, even more so for Peony facing the challenges of being a ghost), she also grows to truly love her husband in death and learns to recognize the difference between that and what she felt as a young girl. Though many of the elements of this tale i could see coming i still enjoyed the process of reading about them (and isn't that what it's all about anyway~and there really aren't any new tales to tell~isn't that part of the point?)

See does a beautiful job of depicting the turmoil of the teenage heart, as well as the problems faced with growing older and facing our mistakes, though she did it in a novel way. She also illuminated a Chinese belief system that i knew nothing about. I deeply enjoyed this novel and gained an even greater appreciation for See's artistry. It made me want to learn more about The Three Wives Commentary, the original inspiration for this novel, which was the "first book of its kind to been published anywhere in the world to have been written by women" (the three consecutive wives of Wu Ren) as well as bringing back memories of the wonderful but haunting Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts by the incomparable Maxine Hong Kingston.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

"First there wasn't and then there was. Before God, no one was."

A much more poetic opening than “Once upon a time…” don’t you think? This is Anita Amirrezvani's rough translation of an Iranian expression that begins each of the traditional Iranian or Islamic stories/folk tales she intersperses throughout her first novel The Blood of Flowers. This beautiful novel is set in seventeenth century Persia (although the narrator often refers to her country as Iran so i suppose it was known by that name even then~but what know i?) in the metropolis of Isfahan, then one of the largest cities in the world.

The novel opens with our young (fourteen-year-old) narrator happily living in her small village with her parents, contemplating a marriage match within the next year. However, misfortune is predicted in the form of a bright comet (its ill-fated portent compounded by the fact that Mars is also inflamed) that passes over the Persian skies, and soon enough her father dies and she and her mother are forced to seek refuge with an unknown paternal half-uncle, Gostaham, in the unknown big city (if her mother had told her, "we'd been sent off to the Christian lands, where barbarian women exposed their bosoms to all eyes, ate the singed flesh of pigs, and bathed only once a year, our destination could not have seemed more remote")
When the narrator and her mother reach Isfahan it is a brand new world, full of riches and wonders, unseen by them before. When they finally arrive at Gostaham's home they are greeted by he and his wife, Gordiyeh, where they are both lodged in a very small room of the grand house, and treated almost as servants. The girl's mother tells her, "we cannot have the same hope we once had," which sets the tone for the rest of the novel.

Gostaham designs carpets for the royal court (as well as accepting private commissions and selling his beautiful rugs in the Image of the World bazaar, our narrator was known as one of the best rug knotters of her villiage and wishes to learn the craft from her uncle. Her learns to admire her dedication, and as he has no sons agrees to take her on as an apprentice, though she can never work as part of the Shah's workshop because she is not male. Her headstrong ways often bring tragedy down on her own head and that of her mother. When the offer of a sigheh, or temporary marriage contract, for three months, comes from a wealthy client of Gostaham's, Gordiyeh encourages her to take the offer to bring more prestige to both her own and Gostaham's family. Through this sigheh the girl learns the womanly art of both taking and giving sexual pleasure and grows in the process. At the end of the novel the girl has become a woman who has learned to make her own way in a man's world (though she may never be able to sign her own name to her works of art, thus the significance of never naming her in the novel).

This is a work of art that is an historical novel but also a timeless tale that offers a window into other worlds that could be our own.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

"'s hard to go through grad school with brain damage. Damn right. How so many people do it, I'll never know."

~Joel J. Rane
Scream at the Librarian: Sketches of Our Patrons at Downtown Los Angeles (illustrated in horrific detail~which is probably a good thing~by Raymond Pettibon & Cristin Sheehan) is Rane's account of his (rather terrifying) five-year tenure (from June 2001 to April 2006) in the Literature and Fiction Department of the Central Library, Downtown Los Angeles (at least it wasn't the General Reference desk though that seemed to make little difference.)
This somewhat entertaining, somewhat frightening is very similar to this and other librarian accounts (as well as many other public servant woe-filled blogs and books) of the ignorance and psychosis that we deal with on a daily basis. The only caution i would give you is that this was written once Rane took his (much-needed) leave of the position, and though it is filled with wonderful sarcasm it is also rife with bitterness and anger and not so much light-hearted humour. Perhaps best taken in small doses by those contemplating entering the profession, but great exposure, nonetheless...


here's an ever so interesting title that arrived at my library completely unsolicited the other day: Hercolubus or Red Planet by V.M Rabolu (well actually, it would have to be unsolicited as i would never buy it.) Anyway, it warns of the coming catastrophe (and don't so many things?) tho this is a very specific one, of a red planet called Hercolubus (which is five or six times larger than Jupiter) which is headed on a collision course with Earth and cannot be stopped. We deserve this fate because we are so very wicked. This book also tells of life on Venus and Mars, exactly what these creatures look like, what their civilization is like, and how they travel interstellarly (they also communicate telepathically and reproduce without the messiness or impurity of sex).
What i find interesting is that all extraterrestrials have interplanetary transport of exactly the same construction and materials (tho it is much beyond our limited intellect and imagination)~no allowances for different advancements or different natural resources (and in case you are wondering why we have heard nothing of this before it is because those we wrongly call Scientists are all liars!). If you wish to save yourself from this imminent danger, you must be willing to work hard (tho i'm not sure what that entails, other than astral tripping and letting go of the sins of the ego.) So there you go.

Monday, July 23, 2007

to do list item #1: find a different life to live

My life has lost all semblance of control.

or so it seems... i am drowning in mediocrity, lack of motivation, and piles of undone things.

(and apparently the desperate, wannabe, poetry of a weepy teen aged girl~but i guess that's mediocrity for you...)

My debt has amassed to a point beyond paying (so much for live now pay later, but i don't feel like i've done much living~well i'm living through a hell of a lot of pain...i know, i know, whine, whine, whine, but it's really oh so damn hot and my head just won't let up, and there is some kind of feline digestive flu epidemic running through the house that causes the cats to have icky substance spew forth from all of their orifices and i am forced, in my weakened, martyred state to clean up after them and i really begin to wonder what is the point after a while, you know what i mean???)

All my plans to knock over a bank seem somehow unworkable (not to mention difficult to work into my schedule of work, pain, wallowing, malingering, and not sleeping). Any quick cash ideas are not quick enough, are too much work, or are entirely too fictional to consider. If i could somehow make money from the piles of stuff that still refuses to clean itself up and continues to build on all the surface areas of my house.

Alright, allow me to wallow in this self-pity for a nonce and then i'll get back to my own patented form of Denial, Depression, and Endurance...

Sunday, July 22, 2007

"Your teen is just an overgrown cat (who makes a lot more of a mess)."

or at least that is one of the descriptions Candice M. Kelsey applies to today's average teen in her book Generation MySpace: Helping Your Teen Survive Online Adolescence (her reason for making that particular comparison is that both teens and cats tend to operate on their own terms and schedules when it comes to sitting in laps and purring~or whatever it is teens do~i prefer my cats). So why am i reading this particular book you may well ask, and i'm not sure i have the answer to that question other than just a little quality control on my collection, or keeping up with the medium, or something, sometimes i just pick something up and read it and then it's read~guess some of us bibliophiles are like that at times.

Anyway, this is a great book for parents, or anyone who has to deal with today's teenagers (or pre-teenagers, or pre-pre-teenagers, for that matter.) Kelsey is the co-founder of a private high school in California where she teaches English, (she is also a mother) and is constantly embroiled in her students MySpace dramas. Although she is definitely not soft on the dangers of online social networking (and predators exist not only of the sexual variety, but in marketing and advertising bigwigs after that ever-lucrative teen demographic, and in the rather naive vulnerability of the teens themselves~though they often see themselves as more savvy than adults~and in some ways they may be. What Kelsey offers is practical and timely advise on how to navigate the "MySpace" world to experience it for yourself and then she offers you talking points and ways to approach your teen so that they might actually hear what you are saying (and talk to you, as well...)

Saturday, July 21, 2007

who hates harry?

Not i (tho i don't have a copy of the latest even on hold yet, i do plan on reading it at some point.) I have read the other ones in the series (tho i was i rather late starter~resisted, until about the third one came out, then finally gave in, felt it was ALMOST required reading for a librarian) then, once i did read them i found them rather enjoyable and entertaining, but not a whole lot more than that (i don't believe that Rowling is the greatest living writer, or the
greatest writer of her generation or anything like that~nor is she super, super original, as so many have contended because if you have read other books of the genre you would see the very same themes running through them~tho how many themes are absolutely original, i ask you, Shakespeare's weren't~it's all in how you use them...)
but apparently there are a few who have some pre-conceived notions of we Harry Potter readers, here's a quote from a literary expert named "Petey"

Which is more embarrassing for an adult:

Reading the Harry Potter books, or being willing to admit that you read the Harry Potter books?
I'd choose the latter. If you have ugly proclivities, please have the good sense to hide them away.
I believe pretty much no adult who reads the Harry Potter books reads other novels. Otherwise, why would they be reading Harry Potter books?

i suppose it's all in the social circles you travel (as you can probably tell from this here blog thingee, i don't read much of anything~and as i'm sure you can guess being a somewhat illiterate librarian brings up many issues~okay that IS sarcasm, although the other day, when i had a severe migraine and was trying to decipher the title of a book displayed on the tiny screen of a teen customer's cell phone, and i had to ask her to tell me the title because i couldn't read, i soon realized that i really should have added the word it because she gave me the strangest look...)
seems like Harry brings up some intense feelings (and defensiveness all around)
According to an ongoing poll of nearly 10,000 readers conducted by The Book Report Network. Respondents have included 4,807 children on, 3,912 teens on and 1,206 adults on, a clear majority of readers: children (85%), teens (78%) and adults (71%) plan to clear their schedule this weekend to get through Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows "as soon as possible".
On the other hand, many have been extolling the virtues of Harry Potter by saying that it is increasing the reading rates of children and young adults and that after Harry Potter they will move onto other novels while recent statistics just don't bear this out.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

"many people love books but few are loved by books"

I normally don't do manga (except back when i was typing/word processing~or whatever the hell you call it~up our teen book reviews a few years back and i had to leaf few a couple of them to try and figure out what a couple of the kids were trying to say but that is an entirely other subject...), but i heard about this series and thought i would give it a shot.

Apparently the R.O.D. (Read or Die~now there's the ultimate ultimatum for you) started out as a nine volume series of "light novels" (which, i guess is the Japanese version of the young adult novel) by Hideyuki Kurata; which then spun off into the four volume manga series that i read (and a related manga series Read or Dream); three direct-to-video anime; and then a anime T.V. series. I think i saw it mentioned on one of my list-serves and it seemed somewhat appealing.

Yomiko Readman is a bibliophile ("a bibliophile is an alchemist of the soul"~or so says Yomiko) and oh, so much more. She is a "paper master" or The Paper (someone who is able to change paper into any type of weapon {or escape device~a sort of biblioMacGiver} she happens to need for whatever occasion she finds herself in~"paper would do anything for her") and a special agent for the British Library (or, actually, The Last Literatured Line of the UK). I found the plot a little hard to follow (and yes, i do know about the whole back to front, right to left thing, thank you very much), or maybe Kurata didn't lay it out clearly enough for me, or maybe i'm expecting more story than i should, or maybe i'm just stupid... whatever.

Anyway, Volume 1, introduces Yomiko, her boss "Joker", and some mysterious higher-up known as "The Gentleman". We also have the requisite number of interesting villains; little-girl-manga-style women in various costumes and stages of undress, as well as intimations of girl-on-girl action. There is also some back-story given for Yomiko's apprenticeship. I found Kurata to be quite witty, and there were some wonderful literary jokes thrown into the mix.

Volumes 2, 3 and 4 bleed into each other in that serial kind of way (although Volume 2 does include a special bonus featuring a little girl who hates books (they are all useless and boring~video games and TV are Way more exciting) and does not want to do her required book report until she stays up all night reading the book passed down from her grandmother through her mother and learns how wonderful reading can be, can we all say "ah, how cute" together now? . . .)

The basic plot line here seems to send Yomiko on a secret mission to the Manshu Academy. The exact details of the assignment appear rather murky, but apparently she is to find a secret underground library which contains the secret to life, the universe, and everything (whoops, wrong story...) The Manshu Academy houses A and B level students and Yomiko is a teacher of B level World History (which apparently ranks below the A level students.) The A level students are engaged in something nefarious, more details of "The Paper"'s past emerge, as well as those of the British library and their foes the ancient order of Hermit readers. In the end it seems it comes down to a choice of Read OR Die (who would have guessed), as Yomiko must choose to save the all important Book of Truth or people. I suppose in manga the large letters D O O M take the place of ominous music, and between the numerous spelled out sound effects, unattributed dialogue, and, seemingly, missing plot development i still found myself a little lost.

Kind of reminds me of the time one of my housemates (my first year in grad school, me, one other grad student and five undergrads~the landlord had promised all grad students~oh well) got us all together to go see Urotsukidōji: the Legend of the Underfiend as some kind of house "togetherness" project because it was supposed to be such an acclaimed Japanese animated masterpiece. About fifteen minutes into the film, most of the housemates had deserted (including the one who brought us) leaving only me and Mr. IamNotDepressed (but he so was) sticking it out until the very bitter end. It was a shared experience i will never forget. There was some point when a character says "Oh, now I see, it's all so clear now." or some such thing and that was Mr. IamNotDepressed's and my joke for the next month or so because it was so NOT clear.So i guess that confirms my non-manga-loving self~though i would recommend this one for its wonderful humour (and you absolutely must read the fine print~that's where much of the fun truly lies.)

Sunday, July 15, 2007

"an orphan, a widow, and the mother of a dead child, for which there's not even a special word"

A few years ago i read The Woman who Walked to Russia: a writer's search for a lost legend by Cassandra Pybus. Pybus was browsing a bookshop while traveling through Northern British Columbia when she first heard of Lillian Alling, a woman purported to have walked from New York to Alaska on her way to Siberia in 1927. There were bits and pieces of the legend to be found here and there that told how Lillian, a Russian immigrant, homesick, had haunted the New York Public Library hand copying maps and then somehow made her way across the country's railways to then follow the overland telegraph trail, on foot, through sub-arctic Canada and Alaska.

The splinters of this woman's saga took hold in Pybus' mind in a way that would not let her rest until she knew whole of the tale. Once she got back to her home in Australia she researched Alling and only found more pieces, ever more enticing. Eventually she is decides to take her own road trip to try and retrace Lillian's steps and in the end it is not until she is on her flight back home that she incidentally finds the truth. It is an interesting narrative of one woman's search for another woman's single-minded journey that took me over some of the familiar territory of my youth.

Away first appealed to me because i had read some of Amy Bloom's stories and liked her style. It was described as the story of a "dangerous, accidental heroine" whose family is slaughtered in a Russian pogrom and then comes to make a new life in America where she starts out in a yiddish theatre, moves on to the Jazz District of Seattle and then travels up through the Yukon. It somehow took me by surprise once Lillian Leyb hopped that train from New York and her story started resembling details of Lillian Alling's trek. At one point i had to flip to the acknowledgements in the back to find that Pybus' The Woman Who Walked to Russia was indeed mentioned. For me, making this woman flesh and blood and giving her motivations that i had previously not understood made both books all the more valuable (Lillian Leyb is looking for the daughter she had thought dead, but now believes alive.)

I'm not sure that calling this Lillian an accidental, dangerous heroine is entirely apt. She is not the most likable protagonist i have ever read. In many ways she has left her soul back with her dead loved ones in Russia (if she ever had it to begin with, sometimes it is a little difficult to tell~though perhaps that makes her tale all the more poignant.) It is a rather brutal novel to read but it is told with an honest and clear voice that i found enjoyable. I loved that Bloom told the fate of each person that had touched Lillian's life when she saw them for the last time, it was a touch of omniscience that did not seem out of place~that is quite a feat for a writer to pull off. With a few caveats i would recommend this one.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

"Discovery was no longer a happy ship."

The other day while i was not slacking but exploring the internet for just a moment to see what was out there that might help me in my work i stumbled across this quiz (that i had actually stumbled across before) and i somehow missed one of the same questions i had missed before: (so you've seen the movie, but have you read the book~and just because you've seen the movie, that doesn't mean you've read the book...) What book has this as a first line:
"The drought had lasted now for ten million years, and the reign of the terrible lizards had long since ended."
The answer, of course, is 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke. This somehow made me decide that i needed to read the book. Although the library's notation (as well as pretty much any other notation to be found) said the novel was based on a screenplay by Stanley Kubrick, Clarke explains in his (wonderfully witty) foreword to the millennial edition that the novel and the screenplay were written pretty much concurrently (because apparently SOME writers and directors want some kind of story/plot to work with~WHATEVER...)
It has been a while since the last time i saw 2001 (even though i adore Kubrick and have the boxed set of his collected movies) so i had i pretty fresh approach to the novel (although there are some images that just immediately come back to you, and every word that HAL 9000 spoke i heard in his unforgettable voice.)
Apparently there were those who complained that the novel explained too much so if you want to be left to your own devices perhaps you are better off without it. I am not of that opinion (either that it was overly illustrative~nor was it conversely so, or that you are better off left to your own devices;). It did leave me with a desirous of reading more of the wondrous Clarke, and to take in yet another viewing of the movie, what more can you ask of a book?
Although many have seen 2001 to have been an expansion of the short story The Sentinel it really just served as inspiration for the novel and the opening sequence was inspired by Encounter in the Dawn both stories are only about eight pages long, are well worth reading, and can be found in his collected works so if you are interested do check them out as well~Clarke really knows his science stuff.
"like a doorway opening from a darkened room into a still darker night..."

Friday, July 13, 2007

"Wow, this must be what smart people do."

was what she said as she was (ever so loudly) reading aloud the titles of all the free newspapers on her way out of the library. A painful amount of time earlier i had heard her shouting "I'm sorry, I've never been to a library before, I don't know how to be quiet," from across the room.
Oh, what to do with that one? So she understands the concept of being quiet in a library she just doesn't have the physical capacity to modulate her voice? Is that a disability that the ADA is aware of, and should we all be wearing earplugs to accommodate her? Or is that perhaps a skill being taught in libraries around the world (thus her need to mention that she's never been in one before), and should i have then leapt from my chair to begin instruction in those all important vocal skills? Damn, i must have slept through that class in library school... (and should i have broken it to her that we have quite a few other not-smart people grace our presence here?) I really just can't take the time to talk to her about any of it right now because, for some reason, her shouting has really exacerbated the pounding in my head and it is all i can do to cradle my temple in the palm of my hand and slowly breath in and out, in and out, waiting for her to leave.
I remember the last Friday the Thirteenth i was also working here with our bright young circ clerk, and just as i finished telling him that i liked Friday the Thirteenths and he was pondering why that would be (he could understand how someone would feel indifferent to them, but LIKE them?!?), i got a call from the substitute i thought i had escaped (the one who just loves, loves, loves Dr. Laura) when i left my last library telling me that she was going to be late. Once she got to the library she started talking about how she was in the process of renovating her mind and things went downhill from there. I told BrightYoungCircClerk that i was reconsidering my whole Friday the Thirteenth stance.
So here we are again, me, BrightYoungCircClerk, and Friday the Thirteenth (at least no substitute clerks scheduled this time~but there also isn't a substitute librarian scheduled for MyAbsentCollegue so i do have to work the Entire day instead of cutting out after my usual shift. Things are off to a bang with some foreign object being stuck in the floppy drive of one of our public computers. Then when i try to open the drawer to get the stuck-foreign-object-remover out, that drawer is stuck closed.
I have the usual complaints about people not getting to where they want to go on the internet, and not remembering the passwords to their accounts, and the sites that they want to visit not working like they should, and why doesn't the library take care of that (because, as everyone knows, because the library provides access to the internet, it controls everything on the internet, as well as keeping track of everyone's password to every site in our massive databank somewhere, and why am i not being more helpful?)? And then there was the local paper that misprinted us as being a drop-off point for certain recyclables that we are not a drop-off point for but because the paper said so that is also my responsibility (well basically libraries and librarians are responsible for everything that goes on in the world and you can get anything and everything at your local library and if your local librarian tries to tell you any differently well, she's probably just lying or has something against you personally, i mean that's why libraries are so overfunded everywhere you look, Right?)
I actually defended the mother of the unruly boys (well actually she's only been bringing one in since the time i suggested they all leave) because another customer thought that she had kidnapped the one boy she had with her. He had told our circ supervisor out in the parking lot that he heard him "freaking out" and wanting to get away, so she came in to check and saw who it was, decided there was no problem, and then pulled me aside to tell me. (I had seen the so-called freak out which was actually the child asking for someone's library card and being refused, i remember because that was when i first noticed they were there, and i felt my migraine twitch, and thought "oh please, do not stay long", but their was no freak out, believe me, i have seen many freak outs and that was not one...)
Anyway, alerting our circ supervisor was not enough of a safety precaution because the man came back in to accost the mother and son by asking them all kinds of questions about who and what they were, to the point that i actually felt sorry for the family who had been sort of backed up against the reference desk by Mr. Inquiry, and i felt compelled to step in and confirm that, yes this was her son,she came in with him all the time, and everything was fine. Forcing me to take some kind of authority-like position when i'm in charge, now that's really annoying...
I have this woman that always comes in a few minutes before we close with odd recipe requests~recipes that she wants me to find and print out for her from the internet. I saw odd because she doesn't really care about any details except for one ingredient. The first night she wanted a casserole made with ranch dressing. Chicken, beef, tofu? Doesn't matter (now i could understand if you had excess ranch dressing lying about but wouldn't you have to purchase the main ingredient?)
She's in here tonight, huffing and puffing and wondering what the symptoms of heat stroke are. Unsympathetic me is just wishing she would hurry up and pass out so i can call 911 or get on with whatever else she wants so i can continue my closing routine (and she's sorry she's come in so late, yet again, she was trying to get in earlier...) Now she's wanting no-bake cookies with flour. After a cursory search, i am trying to close after all, and i have suggested the cookbooks as well as her trying the internet for herself, i found no no-bake cookies made with flour, then found myself embroiled in a conversation about binding ingredients in no-bake cookies and how flour was usually used in baked cookies. But she doesn't bake (she doesn't do computers and she doesn't bake~i know the casserole recipe i gave her required baking but i'll just leave that be...)
She says she doesn't do computers so she always has to have someone sitting with her, for financial reasons. ??? (I can understand not having a computer for financial reasons or having to have someone with you to help you but where do the two meet?)
She has more questions for me but i have to go shut down the internet computers so she asks me for some paper. When i come back i inquire what she was going to ask but she says she managed to retrieve it (from where? the computer she doesn't know how to use? the brain which i also have some serious doubts about?)
Then she tells me she was watching some program on the Discovery channel about foods to eat to strengthen your breast milk and do i know anything about that? Uh, no. That, she says, is why she's always asking about food (ranch dressing and no-bake cookies?). I suggest a doctor or nutritionist (but i suppose, as a library, we really should be providing those services here, SHOULDN"T WE?). She says she always hears people talking about republicans and democrats and the controversies within the catholic church and jews and research and stuff, "so, you know..."
(um, no, i really don't know)
"Okay, thanks, I'll see you next time."
(i'll be here...)

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

¿do i Really want to know?

On December 26 of last year Diane Rehm had Ann Fessler on her show to talk about the book The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades before Roe v. Wade , she also talked to some of the women featured in the book. I was listening to the show a while ago (yes i know, more than a little late there~but i have many podcasts stacked up on my computer and i just listen to them whenever). Actually i think it was the second time i listened to that particular show, and then i decided to read the book even though i knew it would bring up issues for me.

I am an adoptee who really has never had any desire to seek out my birth mother. I used to have a baby book (well i'm sure i still have it~i just don't know where~it used to be on a certain shelf in my mother's bedroom where i could always find it~and then, at some point in my "adult" life she decided to give it to me~silly, silly mom...), a special baby book made just for adoptees, talking about how special and lucky we were to be chosen. I loved that baby book and would seek it out again and again (is that something that everyone does?) not just to look at pictures of myself when i was young, and to read notes from my father of my wonderful progress through infancy and toddlerhood (as well as some of those kindergarten "report cards"~one in which my teacher said i acted like a china doll, as if i was afraid to move for fear i would break~ha, little did she know~after forty years of many broken bones that five-year old self knew more than she could possibly imagine), but also to read that tiny 1/3 of a sheet of information about my birthparents (some ethnic info: German on both sides, Irish on one, French on the other, as i've already mentioned; mother very intelligent and wanting the best for me; father completed college and involved in "some kind" of electrical work~perhaps he was an alien just passing through our solar system on his way to elsewhere~my quirky body chemistry has sometimes led me to suspect as much.) There was also a few pages written by the foster mother who cared for me for the first five weeks of my life~talking about what a wonderful baby i was~i remember poring over those pages, i don't know when it was that i realized those blacked-out portions were the name i was called before i was me. In reading the accounts of these birth-mothers i realized that many of them named their babies before they were surrendered~perhaps i even had two names before the one that currently identifies me~the one that IS me, that seems to be so much a part of everything that i am~that is quite a ponderous thought.

So many of the women in this book talked about how they felt forced or coerced into surrendering their children, that it is not something they wanted to do. I understand that this was a different time period that perhaps i cannot relate to but my personality is such that i would make a choice that i really didn't want to, my mother who IS of this generation never would either. I really am not criticizing these women, but i believe they are, in some ways not taking responsibility for their choices, they DID make a choice, even in allowing others to make choices for them. Do i feel for them? Absolutely, i even cried for them. I also cried for myself. Though i am glad my birthmother gave me "a way" (for a better life~as one of the women said) she also left me with some abandonment and rejection issues, which, through reinforcement with some other life events, have led to trust and commitment issues (which i fully own as mine.) Even if she felt forced into what she did i don't feel there is any place in my life for her (plus there is a fear of a second rejection if i sought her out).

I felt sorry for young women who had no sexual knowledge or education whatsoever, who, often, had their first physical exam as adults be their first prenatal exam by judgemental, paternalistic MDs; who had to live in homes for "deviants and delinquents"; who gave birth alone and afraid with no idea what was going on, then had to try and pretend nothing happened. One woman who had gone through an abortion years after she gave up her baby for adoption said giving up the baby was much more traumatic~knowing that there was a part of you out there, maybe, you didn't know whether it was living or dead, doing well or not~that is why i could never do it. I have no blame for these women, it was terrible to shame them the way they were shamed (as if they "had no right to be a mother")~expecting people not to do something that has always been done and giving them no education or options is no option~societies all over have proven that~restrictions often make the forbidden all that more appealing.

I do not agree with the woman who objects to the term "birth-mother" (also terms such as natural mother, life mother, biological mother, first mother, etc.) as if they weren't a real mother~i don't believe they are, my real mother is the woman who raised me, who mothered me, not the woman who made a mistake, carried me for nine months, and birthed me, though i'm grateful i often have a hard time coming up with a name for her myself (sometimes she is just "that woman"~i'm really not as bitter as i sound). And although i sometimes think i want a medical history (especially given my medical problems~what i don't know and what i do know is one of the many reasons i have chosen not to have my own children) But i have also always had the sense that not knowing gives me the freedom to not be limited by my own genetics, as unreasonable as that is. But why should we expect feelings to be rational.

The book, however, is well worth reading and gives you a glimpse into something that has often remained hidden.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

let's hear it for fact checking

so, i've noticed that almost all of my tales lately have been mainly retold tales from books~i'm not sure what that means. Do i have nothing going on in my life or just nothing to say? Well mostly i have much pain, eratic sleep and watching the idiot box (mostly movies which give me strange dreams and that new Showtime series Meadowlands {strange dreams there as well} as well as, dare i admit it, Hell's Kitchen and Age of Love~an entirely other story on that insulting and bizarre show {is it just me or does Mark Philippoussis seem completely boring and lame~yeah, WHAT a catch}but maybe another time . . .)Anyway here's a library story i've been contemplating for quite some time if you have any interest whatsoever:

Gilbert library to be first to drop Dewey Decimal

Yvonne Wingett The Arizona Republic May. 30, 2007 12:00 AM

When the new Gilbert library opens next month, it will be the first public library in the nation whose entire collection will be categorized without the Dewey Decimal Classification System, Maricopa County librarians say.

Instead, tens of thousands of books in the Perry Branch library will be shelved by topic, similar to the way bookstores arrange books. The demise of the century-old Dewey Decimal system is overdue, county librarians say: It's just too confusing for people to hunt down books using those long strings of numbers and letters. Dewey essentially arranges books by topic and assigns call numbers for each book.

"A lot of times, patrons feel like they're going to a library and admitting defeat because they don't understand Dewey Decimal and can't find the book they're looking for," said Marshall Shore, adult service coordinator for the Maricopa County Library District and driving force behind the idea. "People think of books by subject. Very few people say, 'Oh, I know Dewey by heart.' "

Libraries are trying to adapt to changing times, experts said, and their success lies in a generation of young people who are more comfy at Borders than libraries. Across the U.S., some libraries are trying to lure readers by adding lounge chairs and coffee shops.

Some are incorporating the "bookstore" shelving system into sections of libraries but still use Dewey, or other classification systems, to arrange the bulk of collections, said Leslie Burger, president of the American Library Association.

The books in Gilbert's new library will be organized in about 50 sections, then subsections, from sports to cooking, gardening to mysteries. For example, a book on the Civil War would be in the history neighborhood and in the U.S. section.

"Nowadays, people are used to going to a bookstore to browse, so we're just trying to create that same atmosphere," Shore said.

"I know Dewey fans are out there. But we haven't changed a lot in so long, and I think we're in a fight for our own survival."

Okay, here are a few of my thoughts on this: first of all, this is hardly "the first public library in the nation whose entire collection will be categorized without the Dewey Decimal Classification System" some public libraries (about 20%) use Library of Congress, some use Bliss, some use Dickinson, and some use their own creations. I also take issue with the fact that people find things so much easier to find in bookstores, perhaps in those areas that you are familiar with and usually browse; but, having been a bookslave in a large bookstore i can tell you that a) customers often had to ask where books were and b) the bookstore where i worked had its own numerical classification system (which we didn't share with the customers because it would mean nothing to them) that we would use to know where to shelve~rather than just sticking in a general subject area where it seemed to belong (we needed those computers to tell us the area often~just like we librarians look up Dewey numbers.) When we tried to add directional, subject-related, signs to help customers find their own way that just confused them further. I don't think we have ever required customers to know their Dewey numbers~if they do that's a bonus~but everyone could use a little help from someone who knows their way around occasionally~and every system needs some kind of classification system just to be organized whether that system be opaque or transparent. We'll see how it goes...

I don't have a problem with this library's plan, just their assumptions. And helping the customer find something is just a matter of customer service~something we librarians are often weak on. Better customer service often results in higher circs and greater public relations, and who can argue with that? (perhaps we should make books more difficult to locate but easier to browse?...maybe not)

On another subject, or perhaps the same subject, my library is contemplating a huge makeover, something a little like this. However WE will still be using Dewey. I'm excited about the possibility, does that make me hypocritical? All is still dependent on the Administration and the budget. We'll see how that goes...

dead-end jobs & boxes of wine

So here i am, drawn to yet another story of a bookstore worker, this time it's Elaine Viets' amateur detective (and running from the law, unlucky in love) character Helen Hawthorne in Murder Between the Covers. Apparently Helen's bookstore gig is her second "dead-end" type job in the Fort Lauderdale area (she is forced to take such positions~and be paid under the table~due to her being in hiding from both the courts and her ex-husband) I suppose some of us bookstore workers should have caught on to the whole dead-end aspect a whole lot sooner than we did (or at least admitted to ourselves the truth that we already knew).
I'm not usually a voracious reader of mysteries though i have read my share in the past and this one is at least enough to keep one entertained~it seems as if all the elements of the typical mystery are there (all the characters both unsavory and savory, and a few well-intentioned misleads for good measure), as well as all the elements of the typical bookstore. Not quite
enough to sell me on the whole series, though i might want to go back and read the first one to see if it will shed any more light on Helen's situation (perhaps exactly what led her to run~although i often seem to be looking for more backstory than is given). Probably a good quick read for a mystery lover.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

"on the edge of disarray"

Mosquitoes' lives may be ephemeral, their deaths almost always brutal. But during their transitory span, absolutely nothing will stand in the way of their two formidable guiding desires: to soak up human lifeblood, and to reproduce.
~A Mosquito's Life, J.R. Churin, 1929
Fiona Sweeney, the American librarian, in The Camel Bookmobile believes that books offer "vicarious tastes of infinite variety," and it is those vicarious tastes that she would like to bring to the plains of Africa with her. The author, Masha Hamilton, also does an excellent task of bringing some of those tastes to this single novel. The novel is told from the perspective of a number of different people: Scar Boy (a boy scarred by a hyena at the age of three); his father the drum maker; the American librarian; an African librarian who administers the library that sends the books to the villages; a teacher of the African village of Mididima; his wife; a girl of the village who longs for the wider world; and her grandmother. Hamilton does a deft job of giving each of these people their own, unique voice.
The people of Mididima speak in metaphor and simile~metaphor and simile that tastes of a connection with the earth. When Hamilton describes the drumming, singing, and dancing that the men perform each night within the kilinge, i was taken back to one of the best New Year's Eves i ever had. My drummer boyfriend and i went over to another musician's house where we all had drums of one type or another and we spent hours in a drum circle creating our own rhythms, music, and worlds with just the beats of drums. I drummed (for the first and only time) even though my hands and body grew tired and ached. And within that circle i imagined the history and future of life the universe and everything. It was like a wonderful trip without the aid of hallucinogenic drugs.
The teacher, educated in Nairobi, like his father, but still a son of the land understands the vaporous nature and imprecision of words. As an interesting corollary to the Western world the Mididimans see the bible as containing interesting stories while believing in the truth of their own "mythology". They understand the world as being under the dominion of the "hundred legged one" (derived from the rays of the sun).
The African librarian, Mr. Abasi, was educated in London and chose his profession because he wished to do as little work as possible (what a coincidence, that's exactly why i became a librarian, NOT). He speaks with derision of the semi-nomadic people of the Kenyan plains.
Fiona is idealistic and has dreams of bringing literacy and hope to people who have none, people who see cities where their boys will become street-sweepers and their girls will become street-sleepers.
Fiona's ambitions seem to be failing when "Scar Boy" either loses or refuses to return two of the books he has borrowed which threatens to halt the visits of the camel bookmobile. Some people of the village do not want the visits to continue though they do not wish to be dishonored through failing an agreement.
The life of mosquitoes and their habits seem to figure prominent in this story. Quotes from various entomologist studies and other thoughts about these insects who have feasted on dinosaur blood to those who inhabit the planet today open each section of the book. In this manner their brief lives parallel those living in the arid bushlands of Kenya. Ultimately this is an evocative, haunting, and enduring tale of the clash between cultures which many never be resolved. The voices of the book stay with you long after you have closed it.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

keeping Austin weird

Austin, Texas is a pretty hip, happening and interesting place (all my friends have told me so~and hey, MTV filmed a Real World there so how can you go wrong with that?!?~okay, so sarcasm doesn't play so well in print.) Did you know Austin has the largest urban colony of Mexican free-tailed bats in the world? (i didn't until i read The Good Ghouls Guide to Getting Even by Julie Kenner and tho you can't always believe everything you read this is apparently true.) It is also home to Beth Frasier strait A student, current front-runner for class valedictorian and newly-made vampire (made by a brain-dead vampire jock~her words not mine)~and she is incredibly pissed about the whole undead thing (although there is apparently a way she can become un-undead again~who knew?).
This book is one of those new breed of fun, fearless (and more fun than fearful) vampire hunting vampires young adult novel (is there really such a new breed or did i just make that up?) that made great reading for this adult (or at least that's my age classification if not my appropriate behaviour!).
*and here's a little tip just in case you ever find yourself in the same position as Beth and find yourself wanting to function during the daytime (because of course you fall into the very deep sleep of the dead every day at sunrise and stay that way until sunset) wear an extra dark, extra large (but ever so fashionable) hoodie; crush up a bunch of vicodin to mix in with your blood packs (obtained from a blood bank or hospital because you have well-connected medical professional friends, but of course) and you'll be buzzing through the day. Beth was afraid she would be the first vampire in history to overdose on caffeine pills. I can relate to that, i remember being eighteen and driving back from Disneyland with my Mom, little sister, and best friend at the time. It was the middle of the night, we were driving through the Nevada desert which looked like a completely alien landscape i had taken loads of vicodin to stay awake so that BestFriend and i could trade off at the wheel and i could feel my life slipping away with the overpounding of my heart. I had my head leaning on the window, feeling the pounding of my heart, the grinding of the road, and somewhere in the very far, far away distance my mother who was in the backseat trying to sleep was asking me to turn down the music. "Mom, can't you see i'm concentrating on trying not to die here, the damn music is not my biggest priority right now..."