Reread . . .
"White Teeth." To my surprise I was less annoyed by the ending this time. I don't know if it had anything to do with having seen the "Masterpiece Theatre" version, where it's handled more skilfully.
New read . . .
The Claire Tomalin biography of Sam'l Pepys (sorry, already forgotten the actual title). I really must read the Diary again. When I first read it I was about thirteen and had retrieved it from the upper-story nonfiction balcony of the Torrington Library. I really enjoyed it but from Tomalin's description I seem to have read a considerably bowdlerized version. Although apparently all pre-1970 versions (which I'm sure this was) were bowdlerized. What I mainly remember, and what Tomalin never even mentions, were his constant theatregoing and his bashing of Shakespeare. He would see something like "Romeo and Juliet" ten or twelve times and comment each time how terrible it was. Apparently it was just a social obligation to go whether you were interested or not.
I never realized before how self-consciously he was creating a work of literature and how he made certain that the Diary was preserved for posterity. I guess I thought it was just a casual diary that had been more or less accidentally preserved.
And on to real life . . .
"Midterm" today in class. I completely froze for the first fifteen minutes. It's been so long since I've taken an essay exam. Or any exam, I suppose. Once I actually started writing, though, I thought, "Oh, right, this is how you do this." It's that rough draft exhilaration -- getting it all out. It's a good thing she gave us fifteen extra minutes at the end, though, or I might not have been so exhilarated. On reflection, too, it might not have been so wise to choose the first topic I did -- compare and contrast the roles of men and women in the history of the library profession. There was so much material it was hard to know where to start. The other question I chose -- the role of Carnegie money in the development of librarianship -- was much more limited in scope, almost a no-brainer in comparison.
I went to get ice cream at the Union afterward and ran into Liza from class. She is about to finish the program and is interviewing for jobs; had a 2.5 hour phone interview yesterday. I mean, professionalization is one thing, but this is ridiculous. Do librarians really take themselves that seriously? She says Wisconsin is apparently regarded as a very good library school elsewhere but she is not so impressed. "I could have done a better job myself with my library card." She recommends one particular professor's (who shall remain nameless here) classes and not much else. And a govdocs class that is a "snooze" but full of useful information. And names an unstable professor who should be avoided. Says the professors used to be better, but the good ones have left. Pretty discouraging . . . but hey, at least it won't be boring and *hard.*
Posted by: M. / 4:20 PM
Ben's "Declaration of Umbrella Independence:"
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all umbrellas are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of keeping people dry. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among umbrellas, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.
Posted by: M. / 2:20 PM
Playing catchup again. (Or should that be "playing catsup"? I can never decide.)
I finished "Order of the Phoenix" and discovered that all of the interesting stuff was packed into the last 300 pages.
I read "The Quality of Life Report," which has been getting lots of rapturous reviews, apparently from people who actually think it's astonishing that lesbians would live in a farmhouse and that some people in the Midwest subscribe to "Mother Jones." The New-York-Centrism of it was breathtaking; it was as if even Meghan Daum couldn't conceive that some of her readers would be Midwesterners. All the jokes were, "Can you believe that Midwesterners do *this* ... and *that*?"
It was also odd, though in a refreshing way, that there was *no* sex whatsoever, not the most oblique reference to it, although the entire book concerned the development of a presumably sexual relationship. The narrator sometimes states factually that her boyfriend is naked, but not in a lascivious way, no description or evaluation of his naked body, no hint that they have had sex, are about to have sex, or are contemplating having sex, ever. No hint that anybody has sexual feelings or that sex plays any role in their relationship, positive or negative. It's strangely Victorian.
And that brings us (by way of a dramatic swing of the moral compass) to "Skipping Towards Gomorrah," which has solidified my hopeless crush on Dan Savage. Why is it that liberals can't seem to bring ourselves to say this stuff aloud? Why can't anyone with any real power -- like, say, an actual politician -- point out what idiots William Bennett and John Ashcroft are and how egregiously they contradict themselves? Why do puritanical scolds have so much influence in our society when most people are so very far from Puritan? Do the words "puritan" and "puritanical" get capitalized when they aren't referring to actual members of the Puritan faith?
Margaret Mahy's new novel (the librarian, or should I say the paraprofessional checking out my library books, squealed when she saw it -- "Ooh, a new Margaret Mahy!"), called "Alchemy." Familar territory -- the supernatural romance -- and probably her best since "The Tricksters." A boy as the main character; that's been her pattern the last few books, but most of them haven't been so romantic. I'm not sure she completely pulled it off. The main character isn't as satisfying as Laura Chant, but the girl is -- I wished she had focused on her. It's also by far Mahy's scariest book; there were times when I wasn't sure I could continue because it was too creepy. There's a great setting that I can't really envision -- a rural subdivision on a river in the middle of a big city, access to which is through an alley on a busy street. It's like a magic doorway into another world, but somehow it's supposed to be real.
Posted by: M. / 11:51 AM
So yesterday in class I spoke up (not out of nowhere, but apropos of a passage in our reading) to say that I had put off going to library school for so long because it seemed to me to be pointless -- what could you learn there that you couldn't learn on the job? As I was saying this I thought, "Damn, opened my big mouth again."
Was it wise?
No, it was not wise.
Fortunately no one, including our instructor Patti, seemed too shocked or offended. No one had any very strong defense of library school, either. The consensus seemed to be that it might not be too essential but, after all, it's necessary to get a good job and it helps with networking. Why does this kind of thing upset me so much more than everyone else? I resolved to keep my mouth firmly shut in future. I will need a reference from Patti if I want to apply to SLIS in the fall.
I also started thinking about a research paper I could write some day (preferably after I'm done with library school and firmly established in a library career) tracing the development of library education not to a need for higher-level skills on the part of librarians, but to a desire for greater professional respect and more money.
Posted by: M. / 11:00 AM
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix -- slowly, both because Ben has first dibs and because I'm finding it . . . well . . . boring. I'm going to have to go back and read the other books to see whether it's just me or whether this really is duller and more badly written than the first four. I read thirty or forty pages and feel like tossing it across the room because I just don't care. I keep thinking something interesting is bound to happen eventually, but I'm on page 600-something now and it hasn't happened yet. Get this woman an editor!
Pattern Recognition, by William Gibson. It's about a coolhunter with a trademark phobia, which is such a wonderful concept that I keep reading even though the plot is less than compelling. Actually, I'm a little vague about what exactly is going on, but I do like this character and the descriptions of her clothes, which she refers to as CPUs (Cayce Pollard Units). Call me shallow.
Last week I read three novels, all of which I liked a lot:
Think of England, by Alice Dark
Oryx and Crake, by Margaret Atwood
Unless, by Carol Shields
From the reviews, I was unsure I would like the Atwood. Sometimes I like dystopias, sometimes not. This was really more of an end-of-the-world novel, which I do almost always like. It was definitely compelling, though I found myself annoyed by the narrator, who was less a character than a straight man.
I remembered from last year that "Unless" was being billed as Shields' last novel (she's dying of breast cancer) and ghoulishly I decided to poke around on the web to see if she'd kicked the bucket yet. She hasn't, and in fact according to one source she's got up enough energy to write another book (not yet published) after her last round of treatment, though apparently she's still dying.
"Unless" is heavy on the resentment of male dominance of the literary world -- interesting, because I didn't remember Shields being particularly bitter or political in her other books. Maybe dying does that to you. It's sort of lighthearted resentment anyway, kind of fun. There's a plot twist at the end that I found confusing and unconvincing, but otherwise, it's enjoyable.
"Think of England" has some great characters in it too, including a gay member of the British aristocracy and his beard. Thinking back now, though, I can't remember exactly what the plot entails. It has a structure similar to that of Atonement -- second part of the novel takes place years after the first, during which we see the formative event in the childhood of the main character, a woman.
Posted by: M. / 8:53 PM
As we were driving downtown yesterday morning, Ben asked, "So what is the name of this class you're taking?"
I said, "History of American Librarianship."
"Oh, right. Hey, let's have a contest to see who can come up with the silliest name for a class. I'll start. Um . . . History of Stop Lights."
I said, "History of History."
We came up with a few more silly suggestions before it was time to drop me off. Jay reminded us about the mythical Underwater Basket Weaving that was so popular in the sixties and seventies.
I spent a lot of time worried that this class would be boring or irrelevant. It isn't, not so far. We've been talking about the reasons for studying library history, in the light of the postmodern belief that history is irrelevant -- a belief that seems particularly silly now that history has proved itself most emphatically to be not over (not that most of us ever thought it was). We've also been talking about the purpose of public libraries in general, about which there is apparently not as much consensus in the profession as I naively assumed. To me -- hey, it's a big building full of books; what's not to like?
Posted by: M. / 3:12 PM
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