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Have you come across the Awful Library Books blog yet?  It is fantastic.  I can’t remember who I found it through – a link from the CraftyPod or Craft Magazine rss feeds maybe?

Anyway, you must check it out. Not only are there superbly, well, awful books that the writers – who are librarians – find and post about, but also readers send in gems they find.  And the writers are really funny.

One of my favorite passages thus far is about “Loving More: The Polyfidelity Primer”:

As a librarian, I am certain there is a place for this material.  Open marriage, open relationships, polygamy or whatever people are calling it, is a legitimate collection need depending on your population.  Far be it from me to say what is right or wrong in terms of collection or lifestyle.  So, this might be something worth adding to the collection if you think it fits within your collection objectives.  Done and done.  However, I am a 51 year old married mother of two and I just have to crack up and make fun of books like this.  Mostly because it seems like a lot of work coordinating a bunch of people.  (Kind of like a reference desk schedule with people out sick or on vacation.) Personally, if there was an alternative lifestyle that I would embrace, it would be where people left me alone and I could choose my own television programs and actually hold the clicker. (This is where I yell FREEDOM!)  Right now I am a slave to lifestyle that include 2 cats, an overworked, underpaid husband, an underfunded, understaffed library and 2 college-age “leeches” (as my husband lovingly calls our children). I haven’t got time to take on a “sleep schedule” or invite other people to our marriage “party”.  Besides, they would just find it dull.  A big night for us is re-runs of Firefly or Star Trek while vacuuming up a ton of cat hair off the furniture. Ah, but I digress from our theoretical discussion of awful library books.http://awfullibrarybooks.net/?p=11812

Sweet!

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Gorging

I took a long break from reading fiction.  Like, years long, pretty much.  Toward the tail end of finishing my M.Ed I couldn’t handle much reading beyond my texts, and then once I started teaching part time on top of my regular job, I just didn’t have any leftover processing left to read fiction, or much at all.  I did read some non-fiction – some on parenting, a few science and nature books, a couple on creativity – but reading some of them spanned 10 months or more!

I just finished teaching a class an am on hiatus for at least a bit.  And when this class ended I kind of went crazy and gorged, on fiction.  I read more in the last 3 weeks than I have probably in the last 2 years.  It’s kind of like getting drunk on words and images.  It’s kind of like making a lot of good friends quickly, like speed dating novelists, like stuffing fine cheeses down your gullet and skipping about looking for more.

Here’s what I’ve read recently:

  • Quite a Year for Plums – Bailey White – a little hard to get into at first; the characters in the beginning felt interchangeable.  But then you start to get a feel for everyone and get to like them, a lot.  So many great quirky characters.  Loved Della, and Meade.  And Hilma.  Saw a lot of myself in some of the dottier elderly gals, hmm.
  • Wishful Drinking – Carrie Fisher – memoir; not fiction, exactly.  Very funny, and very sad.  She is extremely insightful and witty.  Loved the anecdotes about other stars, mostly the silly little things like how the beast in the trash compactor scene in Star Wars was called the Dianoga, so between takes Marc Hamill would hold up space debris from the water and sing, “Pardon me George, could this be Dianoga poo-poo?”, to the tune of Chattanooga Choo-choo.  Also, great turn of phrase on the quote about Religion being the opiate of the masses, she says she religiously took masses of opiates!
  • Help Me, Jacques Cousteau – Gil Admason – excellent.  Also a little hard to get into at first, then really took off.  Loved the main character, the imagery, the flights of fancy
  • Ten Little Indians – Sherman Alexie – a mixed bag.  Started out strong but then the last few stories were kind of weak.  Needs to work more on having more compelling tension.  Too many “non-endings” and paths leading nowhere.
  • Water for Elephants – Sara Gruen – fantastic; great characters, wonderful imagery.  Was disppointed when I saw the movie casting choices.

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Morbid Child!

I sort of forgot how morbid kids’ minds tend to be.  I was a horribly morbid kid.  So morbid that other kids, after playing with me at recess, told me so.  In a concerned way and generally over their shoulder while speeding off somewhere else.

I loved to leaf through my mom’s anatomy & physiology textbooks from nursing school – peering  through my fingers at deformities, wondering if I’d ever come face-to-face with anyone having such things as macroencephaly (no), microglossia (no), a massive goiter (yes) or a missing nose (not sure).  I wondered if perhaps I would face one of the ailments in these books.

I also loved to read Greek myths, which are not exactly chock full of happy endings and folks dying of old age.  People are turned to trees, animals, stone, for pretty minor infractions like bragging.   Some spend each day having their livers pecked out, rolling stone up insurmountable hills, or chasing a sip of water to quench their hideous thirst.  They are forced to live in the Underworld apart from their grieving moms, or watch a young son plummet to his demise because he wasn’t ready for those wings and wouldn’t heed the warning.  It is a harsh, primal world,  where humans are at the whim of deeply flawed, often hedonistic and mercurial gods and goddesses.  You were in trouble if a god doesn’t like you.  You were in even more trouble if a god likes you a lot, and his wife finds out.

Also feeding my young imagination were books from the library: books on the Salem Village witch trials, since I grew up nearby; many of the crappy but freakish Time Life Mysteries of the Unknown series, and the complete set of The Book of Lists, which lists, among other things, people suspected of being Jack the Ripper; worst places to hitchhike, and breeds of dogs which bite people the most.  Oh, and I seem to recall some explicit passages about people who claimed to have had sex with extraterrestrials.  And of course, I read plenty of old Mad magazines and dirty joke books.  I’m extremely grateful that my reading choices were rarely censored – but I really have to wonder about some of the choices I made.

Anyhoo, this was fairly ancient history, until I had a kid.  A kid who, like many kids, wants to know a lot about many different things, most of which stand out to her because they are morbid or graphic or horrible in some way.  And most of the time her barrage of questions comes after I’ve only barely woken up and certainly haven’t had enough coffee to respond well.  Sometimes I’m so taken aback I don’t respond, hoping she’ll move on to something else, but after a few moments, I get an impatient, “Wellll?”

In the last few weeks alone, she has asked or stated the following on the way to school:

  • Are there wild animals that eat persons?
  • I think you don’t always have to shoot a cow to get its steak, I think sometimes you can take its steak out and not hurt it, right?  I love steak!
  • When people are in a fire, do they always die?
  • People who ride motorcycles are dumb.  They will go too fast and crash something.
  • Two of the Beatles are dead.  John was shot and George died because he was old.  People should never shoot anyone else.  I hope I never get shot.

She is five and a half! Help us, O Zeus!

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Disheartening

There are roughly 9 dozen “lifestyle / gossip / fashion” magazines in our local library, and precisely one art magazine and one history magazine – and not even one of the better art magazines, one that is a glorified art supply advertisement.  Oh, and I think I spotted 2 science-related magazines.

I’m not saying don’t include Lucky, More, Cosmo, Vogue, Elle, Glamour, Self, People, Vanity Fair, GQ, O, Rachel Ray, Good Housekeeping, House Beautiful, Better Homes & Gardens, Teen People, Seventeen, Young Miss, Esquire. And I’m not saying I don’t while away hours in my doctor’s and hairdresser’s waiting rooms glancing at People. But for chrissakes, can we balance it out with a little substance in a public library?

I’m sure the counter argument is, we give ’em what they want. But there’s a bit of the self-fulfilling prophecy that may be at work. Sometimes folks may not know what else they want unless they get a chance to be exposed to it. Let’s reach a little higher here, people. Let’s give the reading public the benefit of the doubt. Let’s throw “Scientific American Mind” and “Mother Jones” and “Brain, Child” and “Art in America” and “Bust” and “Bitch” and “Nature” and “Skeptic” and “Paste” (do they even make “Paste” anymore?) alongside a few of these others.  How about something with, heaven forbid, GLB content?

And yes, I have asked. I think the next step is I may buy a few gift subscriptions for a year for the library and hope people read them and they decide to renew them.

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The current twin trends in nonfiction of micro-histories and ridiculously long secondary titles have produced some awful names.

See if you can figure out which 3 titles below I made up and which 3 are real:

  • Bloomers: The Underthings that Overachieved;
  • Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World;
  • Mauve: How One Man Invented a Color that Changed the World;
  • Olive U: The Orb that Jumpstarted an Educational Frenzy;
  • One Good Turn: A Natural History of the Screwdriver and the Screw;
  • Shoelaces: How a Young Boy’s Dream Transformed a Nation;

Apparently I may, at any given moment, be eating, wearing, or fixing things with an item that CHANGED THE WORLD.  Hey you there in line – did you know you’re holding  the menstrual aids and ointment that SAVED A NATION?

If I ever wear mauve shoelaces while eating cod I might very well pee my bloomers with awe.

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A fantastic read. The author works at a food lab in Cornell, and not only is he knowledgeable, he’s very amusing. The story about their experiment involving “bottomless bowls of soup” alone is worth the read.

This is not a diet book or really even a weight loss tips book (in fact, I wish it didn’t provide many weight loss tips, as they were the weakest part of the book – a lot of the suggestions were like, “duh”. Keep bowls of fruit around? Don’t have candy on your desk at work? Gee, I never would have guessed). It is a book that attempts to explain our culture’s current eating habits – and foibles with staying fit – by looking at our evolution, factors around us in today’s world, and ways we are heavily influenced by our senses, surroundings, and social cues.

I’m now convinced that feeling “full” isn’t just a state of the body – it is a state involving both mind and body, and when we reach that level can be nearly predetermined ahead of time. What was also interesting is that we are so vulnerable to influences that even people in the field, even people who research and write about the psychology of eating have been shown to get tricked in set-up situations. The author himself reveals times he has fallen prey to these influences.

The more awareness we have, the more transparent we can make influences of the media, social customs, etc., the better chance we can stay on track with the kind of eating we want to do.

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What a fascinating read. Not only a well-written and researched account of the theft and the subsequent hunt for the art, it also profiles many of the suspects as well as the numerous authorities who have tried to recover the art over the years. He also gives interesting details about Gardner herself, as well as some interesting art history tidbits.

Boser’s background as a journalist serves him quite well as his research is thorough and well-documented. One interesting thing I noticed is that he really left himself “out of the story” until the very end of the book, closing with more personal details and framing the work with his thoughts on what the case has meant to him.

You begin to understand how collecting expensive art, stealing art, and the Gardner case itself can become obsessions as they do, as well as the reasons why some of the most prized art in the world isn’t secured all that well.

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