Poindextrix in Philadelphia

January 15, 2014

So here I am in Philadelphia.

I realized over the summer That those extra classes I was taking would enable me to graduate from my library science program a semester ahead of schedule. Since my lease was ending and i didn’t want to incur a semester’s worth of unnecessary student loan debt, it seemed like the right thing to do.

I picked Philly for a number of reasons. There are some that I’m not quite ready to share here, but I’ll let you in on the others: Philly has tons of cultural heritage institutions where I could potentially find work and there are fewer library schools in the area with graduates all vying for positions. Philly is also a bit closer to home, so I can see family and friends in the DC area more often. And finally, I think New York and I just needed a break for a while. Living there by myself was certainly an experience, but New York is intense and I think I need to dial it down a bit. Also, with no job and no student loans, I couldn’t really afford to live there, now could I?

But Philly! Philly is great. It’s a city, but it isn’t quite as crazy as New York (or maybe it is, just in a different way). I’m still getting used to things (I’m using tokens for the train/bus, guys. Tokens.), but my apartment is cute and I’ve gotten my library card, so I’m settling in.

I don’t think much will change here. It’ll be the same old Poindextrix ramblings, just from my new locale.

On Sal Mal Lane by Ru Freeman is a truly beautiful book. It is set in Sri Lanka between the years 1979 and 1983 when there was a great amount of civil unrest and tension among different religious and ethnic communities.

To be entirely honest, I know almost nothing about Sri Lankan history before reading this book and while a stronger grasp might have been beneficial in providing a larger historical context for the story, it was certainly not necessary to understand the story.

On Sal Mal Lane focuses mostly on the children on the lane, especially the Herath children who live in a somewhat perfect bubble of music, fraternal understanding and cooperation, and academic achievement.

The beauty and tragedy of this book is how the children along the lane begin to learn of the world beyond that of their small community — where instead of the petty differences and disagreements there are much more volatile prejudices at work.

On Sal Mal Lane chronicles the loss of innocence and the resilience of community. It is touching and profoundly sad, yet with redemptive overtones. It shows some of the horrible things people can do, but it is about the wonderful things people can do.

It is great, it just leads to inappropriate displays of emotion on public transportation.

Back to Work

January 15, 2013

Alas, my break from classes has come to an end and I shall be busy as ever this semester. I think it should be good though. I’ve only had one of my classes so far, so can’t comment on what I think my academic life will be like, but I like my new job and I think my internship at the museum will be a great experience (that orientation is tomorrow).

I will try to keep reading and reviewing. Or, rather, I assume I will keep reading and I will try to start actually posting reviews again.

Anyway, moving on to reviews:

I recently finished the Archivist by Martha Cooley. It’s supposed to be all about an archivist and a scholar who clash (intellectually) over the library’s collection of letters written by T.S. Eliot to a woman named Emily Hale. This conflict and the intellectual sparring figure prominently, but there are all these other narrative threads that distract from the main arc of the book.

An entire section in the middle of the book is essentially an excerpt of Judith’s (the archivist’s wife) journal. It is interesting and does inform a bit on Matthias’ (the archivist) character, but it doesn’t really fit into the rest of the book until the last little bit when everything is all tied up in a neat little bow.

And the main conflict — the thing with the scholar — seems to be in the background a lot of the time. I am critical because I think that this story could still have been character driven without being so confused and divergent.

All in all, I enjoyed The Archivist while reading it, but it didn’t leave a great lasting impression.

I also just finished We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver. It’s an epistolary novel, which I wasn’t expecting. I think it’s an interesting concept given where Shriver went with things, but it played out in a strange way. In epistolary novels, the revelation of information is key, and I think it was kind of sloppy and poorly executed in some places.

We Need to Talk About Kevin is, at the most basic level, about a school shooting, and even with that benchmark in place, it left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth.

I finished Ender’s Game a while ago, but I’ve been having trouble formulating a solid opinion of it because I don’t think I really liked the ending, but I also acknowledge that it couldn’t really have ended any other way without being entirely unsatisfactory. I’m not sure if I can discuss my thoughts on this book without spoilers, so consider this your Spoiler Alert.

Perhaps reading the following books in the series will help me better discern my feelings about this book, but I think the most gripping part is really the child soldiers/battle school. With the end of the Bugger war and the peace after the League war, that becomes somewhat of a non-issue and childhood becomes just that again. Obviously there’s the hibernating queen arc that could complicate things, but the goal is still not to start another war. I think I should read at least the next book in the series before making a decision.

I have some more books that I’m nearly through with, so hopefully those reviews will be up soon. I’m also really excited about my classes this semester and my internship, so maybe you’ll see more library-related posts in the future. Only time will tell.

Coming Up

December 19, 2012

I’ve been MIA for a while, but I just finished my first semester of grad school (!!!) and now I have a whole month to catch up on reading and reviewing. Get excited.

I finished A Clash of Kings and A Storm of Swords and I’m halfway through A Feast for Crows now. I’m bummed that A Dance with Dragons isn’t out in paperback yet. It won’t match my other books…

Reviews for 11/22/63 and The Perks of Being a Wallflower will happen eventually. There are probably others as well.

I will have a very bookish break and I’m excited. Cleaning my apartment, laundry, and reading are the only things on my to do list at this point. It is glorious.

I’ve made myself a list of books to read before break is over. We’ll have to see how many I get through, but it should be good.

More updates to come!

Belle da Costa Greene, the first-ever director of the Morgan Library (and total badass, not to mention my library idol) famously said “Just because I’m a librarian doesn’t mean I have to dress like one.”

Truer words were never spoken, Belle.

And in this age when tattoos and piercings are becoming more socially acceptable, society will soon need to reevaluate just what they think a librarian looks like.

Rewinding a few months back to orientation, I approached the 6th floor of our Manhattan building — the floor dedicated to library science classes — with excitement and some trepidation. How would I find my future classmates? I need not have worried.

It’s possible that being in New York has somewhat skewed this data, but a large cross-section of my program is tattooed and/or pierced. We have discarded the prim and proper visage of the librarians of yesteryear in favor of self-expression. I believe some of this has to do with society’s growing acceptance of tattoos and piercings, but I’m curious about how those within the profession view the change in appearance.

Libraries are funny when it comes to change. By virtue of our purpose we must be some of the first to adopt it, but historically the underlying structure is incredibly resistant to change. Would older librarians, those that fit the stereotype, be scandalized by my and my classmates’ appearances? Or could this be a good thing– a way to further connect to those whom we serve?

I’m not dead (yet)

October 16, 2012

My dearest readers, I have not forsaken you! I’m still here. I’ve just been drowning under a tidal wave of schoolwork and — for reasons that I’ll go into when I have more time — I’m looking for a new apartment. New York real estate is insane and makes me question my will to live, but I think my search might soon be over, so keep your fingers and toes crossed for me.

My program doesn’t have midterms, but I am in the midst of a bunch of projects, all of which seem to be due now or in the very near future, so working on those has taken up much of my time.

I am still reading though! And you will (eventually) have reviews. I finished In One Person and am reading 11/22/63 right now.

Once I move and get settled and clean you might even get pictures of my new place!

I have some planned posts that are in various stages, so they might appear at some point as well. In short: I haven’t forgotten about you, I’ve just been busy.

I’d say follow me on Twitter, but I’m often too busy even for that (though you should follow me —shamelessplug shamelessplug), so in order to truly get the effect you’d probably just have to stalk me for a day and see how much time I spend on the train/doing schoolwork… I probably wouldn’t be that interesting of a stalkee (yes, that’s a word now, I just made it up).

YA and Feminism

October 4, 2012

I was on the subway this morning and happened to see a young girl reading Twilight. Though I cringed inwardly, I did think, “well, at least she’s reading.”

But then I stopped and thought about that. The “at least they’re reading” argument is a good one, but if ‘reluctant readers’ are reading less to begin with, they aren’t being exposed to as wide a variety of characterizations, so wouldn’t we want them to be exposed to more positive messages?

I don’t know if this girl actually is a ‘reluctant reader,’ but if she is then she’s being exposed to a female protagonist who lets herself be entirely defined and controlled by a man. The “team Edward” or “team Jacob” phenomena is baffling to me as both characters attempt to control Bella and she lets her entire being get swallowed up by their worlds. Even were she given the opportunity to think for herself, she wouldn’t take it.

Look at this in contrast with Hermione in Harry Potter. I’m not trying to make Hermione out to be the feminist model in modern YA literature, but to prove a point, she thinks for herself (and often for others) and isn’t afraid to hide who or what she is. She even ends up with a date — with a celebrity no less (remember Krum?) — because she’s smart, not despite the fact.

Today’s girls need empowering reminders that it’s OK to be smart and know and be who you are.

It’s also OK to want to feel pretty though. Putting aside any issues I might have with the beauty and fashion industries, a tube of lipstick or a pair of heels can also be fun as long as they’re not dictated by someone else’s expectations.

Yes. This is what I think about on my way to school.

Dear readers, despite my long silence I have not actually disappeared. I have simply been attempting to be a good student and intern and have continued to read 8 books at once and have therefore not finished any recently.

And then Where’d You Go, Bernadette? came to the library. Or, rather, it came back to the library and it was finally my turn to read it. Given my love for epistolary novels, I pretty much knew I was going to blaze through this, so I let myself go and read with wild abandon. It was delightful.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette? has something for everyone. A precocious teen, a dysfunctional marriage, a misanthrope, a family trip to Antarctica, a missing family member…. What’s not to like?!

Did I mention it’s an epistolary novel? I know they’re not for everyone, but I really like them. If they’re for you and you haven’t yet read Ella Minnow Pea, do that immediately. That book may very well have begun my love affair with language. I may have to find and re-read it now that I’ve begun thinking about it. Epistolary novels allow readers an interesting view into characters’ worlds. There’s an air of performativity to them in some cases, for example some of Audrey’s emails to various Galer Street parents and faculty, and yet some letters provide windows into the psyche like the letter Bernadette writes to her old colleague.

Now I return to my schoolwork and the other million books I’m reading. I need to just focus and read one or two of them until I finish, but I just get so excited and want to read all of them. Yes, I know that’s impractical.

O lovely readers, I promise I have not forsaken thee! I’ve just been easing (read: sinking) into my graduate studies. I know it hasn’t been that long, but I’m still working on re-learning how to be a student again… weird.

I’m in an Information Technologies class, and while my professor is beyond amazing, our most recent assignment involved designing a (albeit incredibly simple) webpage using HTML and CSS. In case you cannot accurately call to mind my fear of all things Technology, I will direct you back to this post.

And now I must dive back into my reading. Here’s a tidbit: antelopes are documents. But only some of them (the antelopes), and only in certain situations. Gotta love information theorists.

I do have things to review, but for now I leave you with an old one recycled from my now-defunct previous blog. Enjoy?

The Night Circus

     Most of the people I’ve spoken to about this book have very strong feelings about it. Love it or hate it, there are no feelings in the middle. I can kind of understand how it inspires those feelings, yet I am irrevocably indecisive, so I still find myself mostly in the middle of the road.
     I enjoyed reading the book. It held my interest and I didn’t really feel that the story lagged or the plot fell apart. That being said, I do take issue with some aspects of the book.
     Most of the story is supposed to be set in the late 1800s/early 1900s. Other than women wearing gowns instead of dresses and the characters speaking with fewer contractions there is really no sense of this whatsoever. I understand that this is a different side of that era and Morgenstern is trying to show us a bit of the fantastic, but if you’re going to go through the trouble to set that sort of scene, there needs to be more follow-through.
     The challenge concept was a good idea, but there wasn’t really the right balance of conflict throughout. At times there was so much focus on the challenge that there was a complete halt to the rest of the story, at others, the challenge seemed entirely forgotten. There was just a bit of a balance issue.
     I also wanted to know more about Poppet, Widget, and Bailey and more about Marco’s charms. These were the most interesting parts for me and I wish they had been developed more. It just felt like Poppet, Widget, and Bailey should have been played much bigger parts in the story. They were interesting and I wanted to know more. I wanted to know what it was like for Poppet and Widget growing up in the circus. And the magic: Celia’s is innate, but Marco’s is learned. I understood this to be at least partially the basis of the challenge, so I wanted to know more about Marco’s magic. I also wanted to learn more about the magic that held the circus together: what magic belonged to whom?
     All in all, Morgenstern has a flair for description, I’ll give her that, but at times I wondered at the things she chose to describe. It almost seems like everything I wanted might have been in there at some point, and then someone told her to edit for length and she took out all the wrong parts.

My first week back at school was uneventful in the way that every first week back at school always is: introductions to syllabi, professors insisting that we go around the room and introduce ourselves, trying to figure out what the professor prefers to be called, etc. It was also entirely different because it’s grad school. Not only is this grad school, this is library school. Everyone in that classroom wants to be a librarian. Sure, there are different specialties and concentrations, but at the center of it all is information. Every person in that room wants to learn how to take that information and make it more accessible.

Classes have technically started, but now that this first week of introductions is over, I’m excited for classes to really begin. I’m also still kind of terrified.