Before heading up to NY for Book Riot Live (or book nerd camp for grown-ups, as I’ve decided to call it), I spent an evening at the Free Library of Philadelphia listening to a conversation with Patti Smith. She was on tour to promote her new memoir M Train, but spoke a bit about Just Kids as well.

I’d re-read Just Kids in a sort of semi-preparation for the event and was experiencing a flurry of mixed emotions. I loved Just Kids the first time I read it. I’ve proclaimed (often) that the book changed my life and when that thing about listing your 10 most important books was all over Facebook, you better believe that it was on my list.

And so, when I re-read it (with pen in hand to underline all the lines that changed my life) I felt a little bit let down. Much of the language is poetic, and I still find the evolution of her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe beautiful and inspiring, but something was missing — I didn’t feel the same stirring in my soul as the first time I read it and I found this troubling.

Hearing Patti Smith speak was lovely, but the amazing (for me) moment came during the audience Q & A at the end. A woman stood up and said that Patti Smith had been a great role model for her as an artist, a mother, and a feminist and asked her what advice she would give to a young girl growing up right now. Patti Smith started talking and I found myself taking fevered notes on my phone:

  • Do the best that you can
  • Think for yourself
  • Don’t judge based on superficial things
  • Feel yourself as an individual
  • Connect with the world, but remember who you are [when] unconnected

In hearing this advice I was able to identify why Just Kids meant so much to me when I initially read it and why it didn’t hit as hard upon re-reading.

I will be the first to admit that I definitely don’t have everything figured out, but I can say with some amount of confidence that I’ve begun to figure myself out. I think reading Just Kids had a lot (though admittedly not everything) to do with that; it showed me the merits of embracing my “authentic self.” The process of being who I want to be — quirks and bizarre enthusiasms and all — began long before I read Just Kids and continued after, but I think that the book helped something click in my brain. And so when I began my re-reading, that switch was already flipped and the book didn’t feel as revolutionary.

Without this revelation, I’m not sure how I would feel about this book right now. In acknowledging what I took from it the first time, I feel like I can still call it a book that is important in my life. And it’s entirely possible that I’ll pick it up again some time in the future and have other, entirely different feelings about it. I believe that I have changed a lot as a person, especially in the last 5 years, so it makes perfect sense for the way I experience books to change.

I don’t have to give up books that meant a lot to me at the time just because I’ve grown and changed. And that realization has been particularly freeing.

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I’ve been a terrible book blogger recently in that even though I’ve continued to consume loads of books, I haven’t been writing about them (I have, however, continued to post stuff on Instagram and twitter, so you should clearly follow me @poindextrix on both #shamelessselfpromotion).

But since I’m about to embark on what I can only describe as a book nerd-dom bonanza, I thought I better pop in with a quick update (with the obvious fingers-crossed promise that I’ll be better about updates in the future).

Last week I went to a Free Library of Philadelphia author event in which Ruth Reichl talked about her new book My Kitchen Year. She was fabulous, this book is fabulous — and gorgeous — and I’ll hopefully start making things out of that and tell you about it soon.

But tonight. Tonight I’m heading back to the Free Library to see Patti Smith talk about her new memoir M Train. You may remember how much I love her first memoir, Just Kids. For those just joining us: the answer is a lot. A whole lot. M Train talks more about the later years, the less Robert-centric years, I take it. I’m incredibly excited to read it and super excited to meet/see/breathe the same air as Patti Smith and hopefully get her to sign my copy of Just Kids, which I just finished re-reading.

Crazily, I won’t even have time to come down off of my Patti Smith high, because as soon as I leave the library, I’m heading up to New York for Book Riot Live. When people ask me what my plans are for this weekend I’ve been saying I’m going to a book nerd convention, and I think that’s describing it pretty accurately. It’s not like BEA in that this is way less industry-centric. This is an event for readers and it’s mostly about what readers love and care about and I’m so excited in case you couldn’t tell by my complete incoherence.

I’m really looking forward to this weekend. I think it’s going to be fantastically bookish in the best ways. If you’re at Book Riot Live and see/recognize me, come say hi!

I am part of a kickass library group on Facebook. Discussion topics run the gamut from dealing with difficult boards/government committees, to bizarre patron interactions, to what we’re drinking.

And tonight, one librarian walked into her local Wal-Mart and saw a huge display selling Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman. Those of you following along are probably calling shenanigans right about now. The release date for Go Set a Watchman is Tuesday, July 14. There are some insane embargoes on this book. Copies come in boxes with labels stating that books cannot be sold/checked out before the release date. Taking/posting pictures of the book or even the box it came in violates the agreements that libraries and bookstores make with publishers.

So the fact that this HUGE book is on the sales floor days before its release date is a big deal. When the librarian said something to the store manager, the response was “what are you going to do about it?” Now, I’m not going to say that that was the store’s first mistake, but it was definitely a big one.

After a post on the group’s page, what I will now call the librarian mafia (in the most loving of ways) took action. They contacted Harper Collins with the store information and even though it was already kind of late on a Friday night, HC was ON. THEIR. SHIT. and the librarian crusaders received very prompt responses that HC would be contacting the store in question.

If you’re out shopping at a store (not just Wal-Mart, though based on previous incidents they appear to think these kinds of rules don’t apply to them) and see a book displayed before its release date, you can usually find a phone number or email address for reporting issues to the publisher.

The email address and phone number to report violations to Harper Collins are below. If you see displays of Go Set a Watchman before Tuesday, I encourage you to report it.

onsaleviolations@harpercollins.com

1-800-242-7737

In conclusion, if you ever thought about pissing off a librarian, you might want to reconsider that course of action. That guy at Wal-Mart who naively asked “what are you going to do about it” had no idea what he started. It’s a lesson everyone should learn: don’t screw with the librarians.

I know that book nerd-dom comes in many varieties, but I’ve always felt that going to book events (assuming they’re available) was a good book nerd behavior. And so it’s embarrassing to admit that even though I’ve lived in Philadelphia for over a year, I haven’t gone to a single book/author event. Until tonight. 

Caitlin Moran, author of How to Be A Woman and How To Build A Girl, as well as comedian, columnist, TV/film writer and all-around awesome human being was at the Free Library of Philadelphia tonight. She was honest and raunchy and absolutely hilarious. It was a fantastic event.

After the talk/reading and Q & A she signed books upstairs. The line moved a little bit slowly, but that was just because she actually spoke to every single person, giving them hugs and taking pictures. When it was my turn I was a little star-struck, but she was just so lovely —thanking me for coming and saying all of these amazing things that I want to cherish forever — that I kind of just felt like I was talking to a friend. A friend who is hilarious and spectacular and makes me feel better about myself and the world.

Caitlin Moran comes across like a hella-awesome lady in her writing, and she really, really is. Her books are amazing, she’s amazing, my night was amazing.

And because I am that kind of book nerd, here are my pictures from the night:

The fabulous Caitlin Moran.

The fabulous Caitlin Moran.

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Reading from How To Build A Girl

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Close-up of Caitlin Moran reading from How To Build A Girl

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Seriously, she’s so nice and enthusiastic.

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We just had a little chat before she signed my book.

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Also, she’s super silly, and it’s fantastic.

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Love her!

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My signed copy. It has such a great memory to go along with an already fantastic book.

I was checking the little free library website because one day I want to have one of my own and I found out that they have a kickstarter campaign.

Their priorities for the money, as listed on the campaign site, are as follows:

  • Install hundreds more Little Free Libraries that ‘kick start” brighter futures for thousands of children through the power of literacy,
  • Water book deserts – rural or urban areas where books are difficult to access or afford,
  • Help teachers provide books to their students that they can take home to enjoy and build their reading skills during summer and year-round,
  • Provide police departments with Libraries of Understanding that will help them engage with youths and encourage them to read.
  • Positively impact at least 100 communities through the power of reading.

Now here’s the thing, they have 10 days to go and are over $30,000 short. If they don’t reach their goal, they don’t get any of the money pledged throughout the campaign (they don’t charge the credit cards, so there’s no risk to people who pledge).

The Little Free Library Big Book Access Campaign is a great endeavor that I encourage you to throw your money at. Think of all the kids (and adults) that will benefit from increased access to books. To back this campaign and learn more about what their goals are, visit the campaign page, then check out the organization’s website.

I read all the time and in a perfect world, someone would pay me to do that. We don’t live in a perfect world, but I still have a pretty kickass job. As you may recall from my post Cataloguing NYC via PHL from over a year ago (WHAT), I am working with the Gotham Book Mart Collection. There are so many amazing things in this collection, I couldn’t even begin to tell you — but I do post a lot of the cool things I see on my other social media accounts (hint hint).

Anyway, the point of this post is to tell you that I wrote a thing about a piece in the collection for one of the library’s blogs. You can read it at the Provenance Online Project. And after you’re done reading my post, you should peruse the rest of the site. There’s a bunch of fascinating stuff up there!

Author Shannon Hale just posted a great piece on her tumblr. She writes about how at a recent school visit to promote her new book Princess Academy: The Forgotten Sisters, the school administration had only given permission for the female students to leave class for her talk.

Let’s be clear: I do not talk about “girl” stuff. I do not talk about body parts. I do not do  a “Your Menstrual Cycle and You!” presentation. I talk about books and writing, reading, rejections and moving through them, how to come up with story ideas. But because I’m a woman, because some of my books have pictures of girls on the cover, because some of my books have “princess” in the title, I’m stamped as “for girls only.” However, the male writers who have boys on their covers speak to the entire school.

Hale says that this is not the first time that this has ever happened. And I’m willing to bet that other female authors have had similarly bizarre experiences.

She also comments on how this tendency to gender books can be damaging, but I want to weigh in.

This situation is ridiculous. Anyone presented with it can see it is ridiculous. And yet so often people try to classify something as a “girl book” or “boy book.”

Studies have shown that it’s harder to get boys to read after a certain age, which may account for some of the targeted marketing, but does not account for all of the discrepancies. People don’t give boys enough credit — they think that if the protagonist of a book is a girl (or the author is female — ask Joanne why she published as JK), then boys won’t be able to relate and won’t want to read the book. Those factors didn’t seem to stop girls from enjoying Harry Potter (or any number of “classic” works of fiction with male protagonists) or boys from enjoying The Hunger Games or His Dark Materials.

By labeling books as “boy” and “girl” books, we’re signaling to kids that certain books aren’t for them. There will be the outliers who will read them anyway, but so many will hold back out of fear or embarrassment, while others simply won’t have those books on their radar.

Reading is important because we see ourselves, but we also see others. We relate to characters and learn how other people see and experience the world. This is why we need diverse books and why we need to read diversely. It’s why boys should be allowed to read “girl” books (and attend assemblies about them).

If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram or Tumblr (and really, why aren’t you? I’m fantastic on social media. It’s all books and my cat and food. What’s not to like?) then you’ve probably figured out by now that I am employedIn my field! It’s very exciting.

I’m working on a project to sort/catalogue the Gotham Book Mart Collection. The Gotham Book Mart was an awesome independent bookstore in New York that closed around 2007 and the books and records all came to us. Now we’re sorting and cataloguing all the material and while some of it is your run-of-the-mill trade stuff, a huge portion is small press material and rare/limited editions and it’s all so cool and I just get to nerd out all day while working/getting paid.

It’s also kind of funny to me that I moved to Philly, but I’m cataloguing a very New York collection. Go figure.

So yeah, my reading time has been cut down a little bit. But fear not! Reviews shall continue. I have an absurd backlog (that pre-dates my employment. I’m bad at planning. We’ve always known this) of both books to read and books that I need to review. All these things will (probably) happen. I just wanted to give everyone an update on my life and librarian-ness.

If you want to see my pictures of some of the materials, but don’t feel like following me (though I can’t imagine why not) just search the hashtag “gothambookmart” on the various social media platforms and things should pop up.

Yesterday Humans of New York posted two photos of a librarian and a library student and asked them both “What’s the sexiest part about being a librarian?”

At first this may not seem like that big of a deal. It’s National Library Week and maybe he wanted to highlight some young librarians. But the question. There are so many good questions you could ask about librarianship. I think HONY often asks very good and insightful questions, so I’m confused by this.

Librarians constantly have to deal with the sexualization of the profession and it’s, frankly, ridiculous. Librarians as individuals are sexy. Knowledge is sexy. Books are sexy. But the sexy librarian trope doesn’t help anyone and emphasizing that when you have such a great opportunity to help people understand the greater importance of libraries in our changing society is absurd.

The young woman answered HONY’s question with poise and dignity and it’s just disappointing that she didn’t get to answer a better one.

I’m still going to follow the HONY. This one hiccup isn’t enough to make me abandon such a great page, but I will be paying more attention to the kinds of questions that he asks his subjects and I hope that he listens to the feedback he is undoubtedly getting from the library community about these posts.

Incurable Bibliophilia

March 16, 2013

The other day I stopped by my local branch of the library to pick up two of my holds that had finally come in. When I went to check them out I asked the guy behind the desk if the others I had requested were still marked as “in transit.” He dutifully checked and — get this — involuntarily lifted an eyebrow.

At first I thought it might have been a judge-y reaction to one of the books I was checking out (a lá why is a grown woman reading YA?), but then I realized that the far more likely explanation was that he was reacting to the combined number of books I had checked out and on hold.

Basically the dude thinks I’m a book hoarder and I totally am. I will stand up and announce to the world

I am Poindextrix. I love books. I secret them away and have stacks of them next to my bed (and kind of all over my apartment). I am addicted. I do not plan on seeking help.

Also, let’s be real. NYPL’s loan times are pretty short, especially for books with long waiting lists, and when I have tons of books out, they’re always overdue. You need my late fees NYPL. I will pay them. Don’t raise your individual eyebrows at me (eyebrow? One institution, so one collective individual eyebrow?).

Does anyone else ever get strange looks from people re: large numbers of books from the library?

Back in Maryland I would routinely walk out of the public library with upwards of five books. I would go in to return one or two and walk out with four… or seven.

It’s a sickness. The best kind. And it’s totally incurable.