Reader's Exchange

August 2012 - Posts

Why 7 is our lucky number

"Cool!" my husband announced, displaying a missive from Saturday's mail. "It's addressed specifically to you; sounds like a ransom note." 

Fortunately, my cute sunroofed hatchback had not actually been taken captive, but someone clearly wishes to wrest it from my ownership.  The flyer proclaimed:  "Linda, We want your 2009 Matrix!"

And it's not the only notice like this.  Are you getting them, too?  Following the self-congratulatory stage ("Can I pick 'em or what!!!?") we're supposed to render up what the car dealers really want--orders for new vehicles to replace ones we just sold them at prices we're expected to find tantalizing. 

Good luck with that.  A recalcitrant auto customer, the type who delights in paying off the car before interest kicks in and seeing how many years of service I can squeeze out of it, I value longevity over glamour.  Consequently, "wanted" appeals just come across as creepy.   But they also (I admit it) spark momentary excitement--as do those alerts from realtors, claiming that potential buyers are eyeing our modest homestead with acquisitive intent.

I do get a little charge out of those notices hinting that others covet our house and neighborhood.  We like our place, naturally, but it's not going to make the cover of Southern Living anytime soon.  Yet, following receipt of one of those ingratiating letters, the windows acquire an extra sparkle and the exterior exudes more architectural interest for a few days.   Covetousness may be one of the seven deadly sins, but it works great for commercial purposes.

Magnificent Seven posterI've just realized that the entire Seven Deadly Sins lineup--pride, covetousness, lust, anger, gluttony, envy, and sloth--also benefits libraries.

I bet you didn't know that our library catalog has subject headings for each of the individual topics: in Dewey language they're gluttony, lust, avarice, anger, laziness, envy, and pride and vanity.  You could address the whole package with the subject search "deadly sins".

Concerned that an insufficient achievement level may reveal slothful tendencies?  Try Rory Vaden's Take the Stairs:  7 Steps to Achieving True Success (2012), Adam Pash's Lifehacker:  The Guide to Working Smarter, Faster, and Better (2011), or other guides found with subject headings like "success" or "time management".  And, given the number of diet books we offer, the gluttony issue is more than adequately addressed.  

Aware that this will come out wrong, I'll say it anyway:  I'm mainly interested in the other five deadlies.

Think about it.  You can locate many thoughtful treatises on subjects like "self-control", "generosity", or the cardinal virtues (prudence, justice, temperance, fortitude/courage) on our nonfiction shelves.

But for pride, covetousness, lust, anger, and envy, we offer entire sections dedicated to imagined scenarios of their effect on mankind:  we call these areas Fiction, Romance, Mystery, Science Fiction/Fantasy, and Westerns.  As collection developer, I have the happy task of ensuring the availability of a current and wide selection of this very material.  You're welcome!

Hooked on funny

Have you produced any amigurumi lately?  Do you know what that is?

What's great about this question is that your chances of answering correctly are about equal no matter which side of the generational divide you inhabit. 

Amigurumi  (translation: "knitted stuffed toy") denotes a crafting trend that's all over the internet.  You can download patterns for everything from hedgehogs and penguins to the edgier Hello Kitty figures, aliens, and monsters online and knit or crochet an astonishing range of witty miniatures.

Alternatively, you could come into the library and search for "amigurumi" as a keyword and leave with a nice volume of patterns already in print and ready to use.  Creepy Cute Crochet, for example, equips you to create a crocheted Cthulhu or Noseferatu.  Armed with this guide, crafters of both genders and all ages can manufacture vampires, Grim Reapers, and awwwww-inspiring skeleton wedding cake toppers.CCC Reaper

Creepy Cute comes to us from Quirk, the same publisher who introduced literary mashups like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Android Karenina, and Sense and Sensibility and Sea MonstersCleverness, whether craft- or humor-oriented, transcends generational boundaries, and Quirk is reinforcing that bridge nicely.  Other Quirk titles, including Night of the Living Trekkies, The Meowmorphosis, and Taft 2012: A Novel, offer further age-indiscriminate appeal.   Cell phones (pitting Callers vs. Texters) only serve to divide us, but stitchery and satire will have us bonding yet.

Oh, it's true that, while Boomers and Gen X- and Y-ers can all claim literacy with the canon of parody (I refer, naturally, to Mad magazine) those of us who were on hand for the earliest productions may feel that we possess greater insight.  We might even recommend some education in classic musical humor (some of which predates us): Anna Russell's operatic sendup of Wagner's Ring Cycle or How to Write Your Own Gilbert and Sullivan Opera or Tom Lehrer songs.

Mostly, however, we can revel in our shared appreciation, look forward to Quirk's forthcoming titles, and take note of such non-Quirk (but definitely quirky) literary achievements as these:  The Hunger Pains; Game of Groans; My Favorite Fangs: The Story of the Von Trapp Family Vampires; Fifty Shames of Earl Grey; The Girl with the Sturgeon Tattoo; Harry Potty and the Deathly Boring; Goodnight, iPad; Who Cut the Cheese; Breaking Down (part of the Nightlight saga) and, finally, Fifty Shades of Sparkling Vampires with Dragon Tattoos That Play Starvation Games.

If you think librarians don't use four-letter words...

…you’re in for a shock. Clearly, some days are better than others here at the library, but an event we have planned for this week has inspired a whole string of brief but expressive terms. Brace yourself.

FREE. That’s right, I said it. If you drop by Readers Extravaganza this Thursday and are on hand for the prize drawings, you could leave with a great advance reading copy or new book (most are autographed) or other prize from this year’s BEA. No charge.

EXPO. As in Book Expo America: that’s the huge annual event mingling booksellers, publishers, and librarians at New York City’s Javits Center. Authors plug their forthcoming books and everyone tries to snag advance reading copies so they can prognosticate what the big hits of the coming year will be.

BUZZ. If you’re an author or publisher, this is the feedback you dream about—excited word-of-mouth advertising that could propel your book into mega-sales. So don’t be surprised if you see some of these (see next 4-letter word) around the gallery area on Thursday night:

BumblebeeBEES. But don’t worry. They’ll be fabric or cardboard versions.

FOOD.  I believe I heard Kate mention punch and cookies; you can certainly expect a nice treat to be served.

LINE. This signifies what I stood in (otherwise known as a queue), sometimes up to an hour, waiting to get a notable author to inscribe his/her name, just so co-workers, friends, family, and YOU could have lovely souvenirs.

DROP. This is what I’ve been doing--with names-- ever since I returned from BEA 2012. No matter what conversational topic is in force, I’ll find cause to mention that I had teeny little chats with Robert Goolrick, Dan Rather, Buddy Guy, Tim Gunn, Sabrina Soto, Lemony Snicket, Ted Dekker, Janet Groth, Amor Towles, Gillian Flynn, and others. A signed copy of Gone Girl is one of our prizes, by the way.

LOVE. Many other librarians paid their own expenses for BEA, as I did. For-profit employers may have more expansive budgets; librarians' greatest asset is their affection for new books.

MINE!   I’ve given away dozens of wonderful items so far, but no one gets my advance copy of Mark Helprin’s In Sunlight and In Shadow. Don’t even ask.

Who's your WFF?

So, you've managed to avoid starring in a Youtube video or some other digital gaffe showcase that's "gone viral"?  Don't congratulate yourself yet.  As I was reminded this past weekend, low-tech and even no-tech modes of embarrassment lurk in the most innocuous places.

As actual viruses do, these menaces reside, silent and dormant, in dark venues.  They await a host who will enable them to replicate and reveal their insidious nature.

I'm referring, of course, to school yearbooks that we inscribe for our friends, who then (oh, the horror) keep them and bring them out years and years later.

Big Chief tabletThe occasion was a rare get-together with three friends from elementary school through high school.  All of them look wonderful and chose professions that enable them to enhance peoples' lives--which they do.  Appreciating my luck in having hung out with precisely the right crowd, I wasn't feeling entirely confident of having measured up.   Naturally, that's when the 7th grade yearbook surfaced.

As the pages ruffled to divulge what we'd written, I could envision the dreadful possibilities of my authorship.  But miraculously, that particular inscription had been inked in a fleeting instance when nerdiness and pre-adolescence had given way to sincerity and appropriateness. 

Communication still poses challenges, however.  My friends are too polite to bestow "Worst Facebook Friend" honors on me, but we all know.  Due to Google privacy concerns, I removed most photos and don't post new ones.  I'll go weeks without reading news feeds and seldom comment.  Overwhelmed by Facebook's chattiness, I figure that time saved scanning posts (many of them significant, I know) could be devoted to reading another book or two every week.  I think they understand. 

At least my Facebook-neglecting time was wisely invested.  Setting up the August book tower upstairs, I discovered many personal favorites in critics' lists.

For the display, I needed a can't-miss handout for patrons who say that their reading time is scarce (sound familiar?); thus, they want to spend it on "something really good".

Surveying opinions of editors and reviewers from The New York Times,, The Onion AV Club, The Village Voice, and The Modern Library, I compiled fifty fiction titles published from the 1980s and onward, all deemed to be outstanding.  You can pick up a copy at the library; but some of my picks are below.  I hope that Becky, Lou Ann, and Peggy will enjoy these--and you will, too. 

  • The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
  • Possession by A.S. Byatt
  • The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
  • Then We Came to the End by Jonathan Ferris
  • The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
  • Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier
  • Ellen Foster by Kaye Gibbons
  • The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
  • Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri
  • Atonement by Ian McEwan
  • The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
  • Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
  • The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx
  • Empire Falls by Richard Russo
  • A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley
  • White Teeth by Zadie Smith
  • The Master by Colm Toibin