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Libraries

I am a huge fan of the library.  In one of my past lives  if I were traveling solo on a business trip, I’d try to find a community library to visit during my downtime.  It made me feel more “at home” than eating room service in my hotel room.  My parents fanned the flames of my library -love by taking me to the children’s room at our local library when I was just learning to read.   The first book I ever checked out on my own library card was about the friendship between a pig and a little girl. (I guess it was a precursor to Charlotte’s Web?)   And I remember feeling quite grown up when I “graduated”  to the stacks.

To this day I can easily get lost for hours in our town library.  The library is more than just a book repository.  It’s a welcoming port in a storm — when Super Storm Sandy hit and some communities lost power for over a week, the libraries were one of the places you could go to get warm and charge your phone.  Checking in with your neighbors is as much a part of library life as checking out books.

And in addition to “big” community libraries there is the grass-roots, “little” library movement.  Check out these pop-up libraries at Little Free Libraries.   Paper and ink books are still important — not just to the individual reader, but to the community at large.  And I can’t think of a better way to make and strengthen connections than debates and discussions over characters and stories.

So please support your library — be it big or small.  Visit often and bring a friend with you.  I’ll meet you there.

 

 

 

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Can You Please Be Quiet? I’m Tryin’ to Create Here

Starting off this cold January with some warm & wonderful book quotes from Flavorwire.com as a lead in to the meat of my post:

“No matter how busy you may think you are, you must find time for reading, or surrender yourself to self-chosen ignorance.” — Confucius

“Reading is everything. Reading makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something, learned something, become a better person. Reading makes me smarter. Reading gives me something to talk about later on. Reading is the unbelievably healthy way my attention deficit disorder medicates itself. Reading is escape, and the opposite of escape; it’s a way to make contact with reality after a day of making things up, and it’s a way of making contact with someone else’s imagination after a day that’s all too real. Reading is grist. Reading is bliss.” — Nora Ephron

“We need to make books cool again. If you go home with somebody and they don’t have books, don’t fuck them. Don’t sleep with people who don’t read!” – John Waters

“Read! When your baby is finally down for the night, pick up a juicy book like Eat, Pray, Love or Pride and Prejudice or my personal favorite, Understanding Sleep Disorders: Narcolepsy and Apnea; A Clinical Study. Taking some time to read each night really taught me how to feign narcolepsy when my husband asked me what my “plan” was for taking down the Christmas tree.” — Tina Fey

And class, what do we need to read successfully?  Anybody?  Why SILENCE (at least in your own head) is critical to good reading.  Why else were we taught to always have a “personal reading book” in our desks when we came in from recess back in the Stone Age?  So we could read SILENTLY and return to a more scholarly frame of mind after running around on the playground (or avoiding mean kids on the playground).  An actor friend tells a story about going on auditions where you could sit and wait for 7-8 hours before you were called to read.  Once she saw a woman sit and wait that long without a book…..either she could meditate with the intensity of an ancient monk, or she didn’t have that much upstairs to require distraction from boredom.  Or maybe she heard voices in her head, but that’s the subject of completely different type of post.

In the past few weeks I’ve noticed a “silent” trend.  On Sunday, January 1, Pico Iyer had the NY Times Sunday Review feature with “The Joy of Quiet.”   I had to chuckle a little bit when I read that some folks pay a premium NOT to have Internet connectivity in their hotels rooms.  Gee, they could stay with my parents for a week.  On the rare occasion the OG’s need the Internets, they have dial-up. (which means they have no phone so you could get crazy calling them with an incessant busy signal, because, you guessed it, they don’t have cell phones either.)    Will self-imposed silence and the ability to get “off the grid” become the new status symbols?

In a somewhat related piece on the same day, Nick Bilton, the Times’ personal tech  guy posted this piece about Disruptions.    The gist is that we’re so caught up in using our devices capturing and sharing our moments, that we totally lose the moments we’re supposedly enjoying.  Nick is resolving to take 30 unconnected minutes a day to get back in touch with his day-dreaming self.   Now I know there are a great many of us who welcome our digital overlords, but if memory serves, don’t these things also come with an “OFF” switch that the user controls?  Or does our inner child just like the feeling that with all this technology in our hands we won’t miss anything?  The problem is that we never really allow the  boredom and down-time to generate any creativity when we fill all our time with Twittering and swiping.

Like many of my proletarian siblings, I sit in front of a computer all day at work.  When I come home I like to decompress and check my e-mail (and blog stats!), but then I like to eat and enjoy my family.   To date, that means we need to use fire and organic materials to make our dinner.  And after dinner we need to clean up the organic detritus and settle down with a juicy book, or some exercise or banal chore that makes for civilized living.  Some of those activities lubricate my creativity — and I rush to my computer to get them down before they seep away.  Every once and a while they turn into something worth sharing….. and sometimes I re-read them and shiver (not in a good way) and hit delete.  But in any case, I do give a little prayer of thanks that my creative juices haven’t totally dried up.

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Head In a Book…

This is totally subjective, but below is a list of 10 books that I have found memorable.  I enjoy reading and am frequently overwhelmed by all the choices so I rely on good friends to steer me into safe harbor.  If you have any books you’d like to add, please feel free.  The  virtual bookshelf is unlimited.

Super Sad True Love Story— Gary Shteyngart.  This is fiction, but everything in it is coming true!  Gary must be some sort of supernatural being with an incredible agent.

Let the Great World Spin — Colum McCann.  Story and characters so beautifully crafted that I ached when I finished it.  … or maybe it was just jealousy?  Writing that appears effortless is anything but.

The Corrections –Jonathan Franzen.  The funk in dysfunctional families always makes for a great story.

Middlesex — Jeffrey Eugenides.  I wasn’t a fan of The Virgin Suicides, so I’m glad I read Middlesex first. Skip the Virgins and go with the hermaphrodites is what I always say.

Zeitoun — Dave Eggers.   Non-fiction, but unbelievable in a way that will leave you shaking with anger.

The Zookeeper’s Wife — Diane Ackerman.  Also non-fiction, but an incredibly brave and believable story.

Bossypants — Tina Fey.  I wanted to grow up to be Tina Fey, but didn’t know how.  So she deserves to be the Boss of Me.  No hard feelings though, and if she ever reads my blog I know we will be BFFs.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay — Michael Chabon.  Chabon is an excellent story-teller, and I was sad to finish this one.  The Yiddish Policemen’s Union is a close second.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao — Junot Diaz.  I had never read anything like this before, and that’s the minimum standard for awesomeness. Plus, dude is a Rutger’s grad from home-state where we need more Pulitzer Prize winners to counteract all those reality TV characters who DO NOT represent the real NJ.

Hell  — Robert Olen Butler.  Everybody had their own version of Hell, don’t they?  This was a recommendation of the very literary Dr. Blog, who has never steered me wrong (pretty decent record since she’s been recommending books to me for more than 30 years).