The Books of My Numberless Dreams

Archive for the ‘Personal’ Category

The original authors of this exercise are Will Barratt, Meagan Cahill, Angie Carlen, Minnette Huck, Drew Lurker, and Stacy Ploskonka at Illinois State University. If you participate, they ask that you PLEASE acknowledge their copyright. (via Charlotte’s Web)

Bold the true statements. You can explain further if you wish.

1. Father went to college
2. Father finished college
3. Mother went to college
4. Mother finished college

5. Have any relative who is an attorney, physician, or professor.
6. Were the same or higher class than your high school teachers.
7. Had more than 50 books in your childhood home.

8. Had more than 500 books in your childhood home
9. Were read children’s books by a parent
10. Had lessons of any kind before you turned 18
11. Had more than two kinds of lessons before you turned 18

Swimming, ballet, music (piano, violin, voice), a brief spurt with Judo.
12. The people in the media who dress and talk like me are portrayed positively
13. Had a credit card with your name on it before you turned 18
14. Your parents (or a trust) paid for the majority of your college costs
15. Your parents (or a trust) paid for all of your college costs
16. Went to a private high school
Private high schools in Jamaica are typically the worst things you could saddle your child with, although they are known to scoop a good public high school teacher or two when they get fed up with low government pay.
17. Went to summer camp
Yeah, loved that stuff.
18. Had a private tutor before you turned 18
For a very brief period in preparation for Common Entrance (10+) exams when I was in prep school (private elementary).
19. Family vacations involved staying at hotels
A few times but 90% of them it involved staying with family.
20. Your clothing was all bought new before you turned 18
Either bought new or sewn by my aunt or a close family friend.
21. Your parents bought you a car that was not a hand-me-down from them
Yeah, but it was used. My Mum worked with hotels and typically drove company cars so there was nothing to hand down.
22. There was original art in your house when you were a child
Not many and I have no idea where it came from because none of it was my type.
23. You and your family lived in a single-family house
My extended family (aunts and cousins). I guess it was a “single-family” house that my Mum extended it. This only happened after she decided to get my younger brother and I out of hotel living. I got shipped to boarding school. On breaks I’d as often stay with my Mum (at hotels) than in Kingston (at the house). So I only felt as if I properly lived in such a home for sixth form.
24. Your parent(s) owned their own house or apartment before you left home
Don’t have a clue.
25. You had your own room as a child
26. You had a phone in your room before you turned 18
27. Participated in a SAT/ACT prep course
Yes, but that was only after I took SAT I on my own. The tutor heard of my score and “recruited” me for his college prep programme but I never paid anything since he doesn’t prep for SAT IIs as they are subject specific. I was doing my A-levels. (SAT IIs were much easier.)
28. Had your own TV in your room in high school
Never and still don’t. The idea makes me uncomfortable — seems excessive and guaranteed to suck away precious hours. I’m in a situation now, though, when the available tv is so small and pathetic (and often co-opted by the landlady’s boyfriend-now-husband to watch Westerns) that I may invest in one.
29. Owned a mutual fund or IRA in high school or college
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.
30. Flew anywhere on a commercial airline before you turned 16
Well, you know, us Caribbean folk like to go abroad.
31. Went on a cruise with your family
Don’t think I’ll ever do this. Stuck on a ship with fake golf courses and retirees chilling by the pool and godawful night entertainment? Do not want. (Maybe those Antarctic/Arctic cruises? Maybe. There seems to be something to those.)
32. Went on more than one cruise with your family
33. Your parents took you to museums and art galleries as you grew up
34. You were unaware of how much heating bills were for your family
N/A

Yikes. Lots more bolding than I expected. Feel free to do this one if you care to.

Verbivore tagged me for the “Kind things” meme — go see hers, it has pictures of flowers and doggies! — so I’ll take the opportunity to envelope you in fluff, like a good blogger should.

  • List five kind things you do for yourself.
  • List five kind things you do for your closest friend, partner or child.
  • List five kind things you have done for a stranger.
  • Have fun!
  • Tag five people.

Five kind things I do for myself

Walk everywhere
I don’t really exercise and my diet is regulated by vague ideas about moderation. Hmmm, have had coffee so many days in a row? Should take a break and have juice instead. Don’t forget to have an apple to balance the yummy eggs and sausage. Every so often I crave a salad. My trump card, then, is to avoid vehicular transportation whenever I can. I walk to school every day as well as to all the book stores, even the ones downtown that are 40-50 minutes by foot from where I live. I try to go at a brisk pace. Then treat myself to some ice cream.

Read/blogging
I would explode if I did not all of you to discuss books with. I would live in book stores if I weren’t able to buy most of the books I wish whenever I like. (Library offerings are just too limited, especially when it comes to translated fiction and anyway I want to *own* beautiful, beautiful books not borrow them.)

Mark out solitary time
Although I do have a little brother the 12 year age difference is enough for me to still consider myself an “only child”, in some senses. Some of the best memories of my childhood is when I walked by the harbour nestling under trees or on the dock with a book or journal, sometimes reading, sometimes daydreaming or being quiet, absorbing my surroundings.

Canadian winters has forced me to change that system somewhat. I’ve channelled this need into doing various activities by myself, if I’m so inclined, a habit that some of my friends still find a bit odd, because, omg they could *never* go to the cinema by themselves, how *embarrassing*. (I still love them.) So during winter it’s more likely to find me enjoying my Bookforum at one of the many local coffee shops, or taking in a Bergman revival alone in the shadows, or prowling at an art gallery.

Subscribe to literary magazines
I don’t know what I do without them now! I’m addicted to the conversation among those pages even if very few of them approach my ideal. I don’t even begrudge those that devote a lot of pages to political and history books because most newspapers have become worthless for anything beyond the most basic reports.

Join the anime club
Now my life is complete.

;)

Five kind things I do for my closest friend/s

Buy stamps
The Shoppers Drug Mart is closer to my place (and she’s too lazy to get off the bus to make a stop at the one on her bus route) so I get the stamps she needs for her letters.

Listen
Some people seem to attract drama even though they’re the nicest person on the planet. It’s weird.

Encourage their independence
Sacrificing your life to keep people happy is not worth it.

Being frank/accepting
I can almost see the sigh of relief when I don’t provide the carefully looked for reaction of shock/disgust/ridicule/condemnation when they tell me about so and so. And this goes for both conservative and liberal views. I’m not perfect at withholding the harsh condemnation but I’m working on it.

Buy them pizza
I honour my bets (sigh). And a large three topping pizza for ten bucks is pretty good.

Five kind things you have done for a stranger

Provide bus fare
I hope it was for bus fare

Donate time to food bank
I, along with a bunch of others, collect for the food bank every Halloween. Good times.

Be friendly to international/exchange students
Because of the times I travel in and out of Canada I inevitably meet a foreign student who’s come to Canada for the first time at the airport who’s heading to the same school. I’ve made a lot of great friends that way so it works out for me too. It’s much better, for me, than the official shadow programme the International Students Association provides. It’s a good programme but I think it’s so much easier for both involved when you meet up in an informal environment and hit it off rather than (potentially) getting stuck with someone who wants to burnish their resume.

Donate books
Instead of bartering them at the bookstore I’ll sometimes donate them to the public library, especially if they are fairly recent releases that they haven’t acquired yet or wouldn’t mind more copies of.

Volunteering
I do it a lot, although it has slowed down some now that I’m in grad school. I’m thinking of signing up for a semi-regular position at the local public library but all of the posts require that you own a car or have access to one, and I don’t just want to shelve books or sit at a desk.

*****

Here’s Dewey’s Negativity meme

1. When you dislike a book, do you say so in your blog? Why or why not?
Wild horses couldn’t stop me from verbally stabbing a book in the spine if it has the temerity to disappoint me. :D I write however I feel about books here so the negative has to be mentioned at some point. The occasional bad read is unavoidable but I prefer complete enjoyment, especially the kind that is multifaceted.

2. Do you temper your feelings about books you didn’t like, so as not to completely slam them? Why or why not?
Ahh…no. What I might do is read over a few pages to see if they’re as bad as I remember but if they are then I convey that. I can feel passionate about a book but I’ve been vicious or vindictive (as far as I know) and I’m more careful to provide evidence for negative reviews.

3. What do you think is the best way to respond when you see a negative review about a book you enjoyed?
If it’s the unsupported, thumbs-up-or-down kind I ignore it and if it’s not I may share my different reaction and perhaps comment on any examples the reader provided to say if I saw the same thing but from a different angle or if it simply didn’t bother me, things like that. I don’t mind disagreement and I’ve never had trolls in my comment section.

4. What is your own most common reaction when you see a negative review of a book you loved or a positive review of a book you hated?
I don’t have one, I think. It all depends on the review’s quality — if it’s good I’ll be attentive, if not, dismissive.

5. What is your own most common reaction when you get a comment that disagrees with your opinion of a book?
Same answer to question 4.

6. What if you don’t like a book that was a free review copy? What then?
Same approach applies. If a publisher can afford to send them, it can afford to lose control of the results.

7. What do you do if you don’t finish a book? Do you review it or not? If you review it, do you mention that you didn’t finish it?
If I haven’t finished a book I’ll post some commentary depending on whether I feel the urge to and, of course, I mention it’s incomplete status. I would not consider such commentary a “review”.

*****

Quizzes from my reliable source, Shaken & Stirred.

Your Score: Tigger

You scored 14 Ego, 13 Anxiety, and 16 Agency!

And as they went, Tigger told Roo (who wanted to know)
all about the things that Tiggers could do.

“Can they fly?” asked Roo.

“Yes,” said Tigger, “they’re very good flyers, Tiggers
are. Strornry good flyers.”

“Oo!” said Roo. “Can they fly as well as Owl?”

“Yes,” said Tigger. “Only they don’t want to.”

“Why don’t they want to?” well, they just don’t like it
somehow.”

Roo couldn’t understand this, because he thought it
would be lovely to be able to fly, but Tigger said it was
difficult to explain to anybody who wasn’t a Tigger himself.

You scored as Tigger!

ABOUT TIGGER: Tigger is the newest addition to the Hundred Acre Wood, and he lives with Kanga and Roo, because Roo’s strengthening medicine turned out to be the thing that Tiggers like best. Tigger is bouncy and confident -some of his friends think he is a little TOO bouncy and confident, but attempts to unbounce him tend to be fruitless.

WHAT THIS SAYS ABOUT YOU: You are a positive and confident person. You feel capable of dealing with anything and everything, and funnily enough, you usually ARE. You don’t worry about much, and you love to go out and find new adventures.

Your friends and family might sometimes be a little exasperated by your boundless enthusiasm. You don’t like to admit your mistakes, and when you find yourself in over you head, you tend to bluff your way out of things. You would be surprised, however, at how happy the people around you would be if you would actually admit to a mistake. It would make you seem more human, somehow.

Link: The Deep and Meaningful Winnie-The-Pooh Character Test written by wolfcaroling on OkCupid, home of the The Dating Persona Test
View My Profile(wolfcaroling)

The most terrible irony in all the Idylls is that there is no real cause for this loss of humanity. As Northrop Frye says, “Tragedy’s ‘this must be’ becomes irony’s ‘this at least is’ ” (p. 285). Jacob Korg also argues that there is no real cause, that the kingdom “unaccountably” (p. 10) dissolves. He goes on, however, to ascribe this causelessness to an overriding “fatalism,” a tragic principle, I would suggest, that is unrelated to ironic action. Instead of the convincing reasons given in tragedy we have a multiplicity of reasons, all inadequate. There are no resounding causes for the fall and no important forces at work against Arthur; he is defeated by triviality. His greatest enemy, in fact, is the natural process of oversimplification, The balance he tries to maintain between the physical and the spiritual, for instance, is destroyed on one side by Tristram and the naturalists, and on the other by the well-meaning search for the Grail. The failure is not one of morality but a pathetic failure of understanding; the world is lost not because it is evil but because it is stupid. [154/155]

Arthur is magnificently heroic, but there is about him the ironic shadow of the relentless and ludicrously ineffective pedagogue whose star pupils misunderstand: the king’s grandest and simplest words are presented by a good-hearted reporter, Percivale, whose only comment is, “So spake the King: I knew not all he meant” (“The Holy Grail,” l. 916). The entire poem mixes the heroic and the preposterous, the grand and the trivial. The final effect is not to deny the importance of Arthur and Camelot, but rather to insist on both the greatness and the impossibility – even the absurdity – of this dream. The dream is shattered for no particular, or at least no important, reason; most men did not even realize what it was: “the wholesome madness of an hour,” according to Tristram (“The Last Tournament,” l. 670).

Kincaid, James R. “Introduction to Idylls of the King.” Tennyson’s Major Poems: The Comic and Ironic Patterns. 1975 Yale University Press. 28 Mar. 2001 http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/tennyson/kincaid/ch8.html

See, that’s exactly what I was getting at with far less eloquence.

On a completely unrelated note I think I finally got rid of a pesky undergrad who’d picked up the annoying habit of following me everywhere since early February. He was ok looking with a great German accent and all but he was always hanging around my regular haunting spots all the time and we always had to meet up every day and even when I was sick he kept texting me with soup-making offers which was sweet but I can’t even escape you when I’m locked in my room, jesus, am I your first real live girl or what? And now when I was in the middle of juggling work and personal interests in about a million Firefox tabs he couldn’t seem to get that I was busy and would make the most pathetic attempts to subtly get my attention and write stupid notes in garbled Jamaican patois. So I gave him the glare and ignored him for 2 hours (that’s right! that’s how long he sat there idling–doesn’t he have work to do?). I think he finally got it.

Just wanted to get that off my chest.

Sick

Posted on: February 17, 2008

Deadlines.

Will re-emerge soon.

My blogging has gotten off to a bracing start in 2008. In last year’s closing reading weeks I went through a heightened novel reading spurt in an effort to end the year as well as remembered previous ones. (Kafka on the Shore by Murakami Haruki ended 2005, Brother Man by Roger Mais, 2006.) In those years I hadn’t been trying, and succeeded, for 2007, not so much. I nearly made it with Derek McCormack’s Grab Bag: 2 stories as it was amusing, disturbing, poignant, stylistically engaging and just a treat. I mean to reread Dark Rides, a novel that takes up the first half, because his short, full-length fiction beg me to do so as soon as I finish. (I reread The Haunted Hillbilly too.) What he doesn’t pinpoint in his very concise sentences evince a strong presence that I don’t always pay close attention to, or I don’t allow myself to linger long enough in those silent spots; and since the book’s so short it’s not a problem.

Then I picked up Murakami’s After Dark with the idea hanging at the back of my mind that it wasn’t going to be a stunner but I hoped to be proved wrong. I wasn’t. It has its interesting, signature Murakami moments but I’d never felt so offended by jacket copy hyperbole before: a fiction as important/momentous as The Wind Up Bird Chronicle, my arse.

I ended up ringing in the new year with Don Quixote. Yes, I’m back to that (again) and within spitting distance of page 600. It helps that things are much less repetitive, although I’m not that far into the second part to confidently type that. We’ll see.

I’m still pissed about my stolen A House and Its Head. These Christmas gifts sort of made up for it. :P

Naturally, I did not keep to all my reading goals of last year, but I didn’t do too badly with the one I came up with on my own.

  • Marlon James
  • Andrew Salkey
  • Nalo Hopkinson
  • Anna Banti
  • Angela Carter
  • Kurt Vonnegut
  • Patrick Hamilton
  • Claude McKay
  • Cormac McCarthy

Hopkinson could sort of count if I included the postcolonial SF/F anthology she edited…. I had a go at a Vonnegut, Slaughter-house Five, but did not make it past the second page. Unlike the aborted attempt with Hopkinson’s novel, I doubt that there will ever be a right time for me and Mr. V. I nearly picked up Blood Meridian this morning, but passed it over for Paulina 1880 by Pierre Jean Jouve.

I did no better with the Underrated Writers of 2006 pickings hosted by Syntax of Things. I’m rather glad they didn’t do one for 2007 — I may keep to my old list and try to chip away at it. Makes no sense to list them out here since I only managed to get to Brian Evenson. I’m still in the middle of the latest from VanderMeer.

Happy New Year. May it turn out to be a thousand times better than minor, ho hum, perilously close to boring works from major novelists who allegedly wrote one of my absolute favourite books.

Go me

Posted on: October 18, 2007

I’ve been lucky in book give-aways recently. I won a copy of a special South American Virginia Quarterly issue at The Old Hag and four Akashic books (woo!) from the fabulous Maud Newton (whose site doesn’t seem to be working at the moment). The books are Song for Night (First Chapter excerpt) another novella by Chris Abani (woo woo!), The Girl with the Golden Shoes by Colin Channer (heh), The Swing Voter of Staten Island by Arthur Nersesian and A Fictional History of the United States with Huge Chunks Missing edited by T. Cooper and Adam Mansbach. Then I discovered a minute ago that I received a LibraryThing early review copy of Desire and Its Shadow by Ana Clavel who is, I think, a Mexican author.

I also bought a few books earlier this week after going through a purchasing drought in September.

Ingo and Tide Knot by Helen Dunmore – Wow America, you got some ugly cover. Sucks to no longer be in the Commonwealth, I guess.)

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien  – My third copy now. I lent the first, lost the second (which I do not regret because it had a horrible printed movie sticker).

Spaceman Blues: A Love Song by Brian Slatterly – It’s funny how out of place the cover made it look in the science fiction section. Truth be told, I went looking in among the Fiction & Literature shelves first.

La! I’ve finally moved, all my delicious books are still in boxes, I’m finally living with a cat again (hooray!), and I already know at least…two past bad experiences one of my new roommates had with his exes. “I can’t believe I just told you that,” he said. Not me, I’m used to it by now. Maybe I should be a shrink instead of a….whatever it is I currently plan to become.

The best thing about my new place, besides the cat, is that I now have Turner Classic Movies on a permanent basis, not as a temporary freebie. (Bless you, house gods.) I celebrated by watching a noir –I looked up from my book, turned on the tv and lo! it had begun — called The Sniper. It was rather bizarre, atmospheric as any noir should be, and at times unintentionally hilarious. There’s so much going on in September: Cult movies, silent movies and back-to-school films! The new roommie and I continued the old movie fest by seeing the original The Italian Job on Suntv yesterday. The week should end with a literary flourish as TCM ‘s Saturday night prime time feature is “Based on Oscar Wilde”. It starts at 8:00 PM ET with  The Importance of Being Earnest, An Ideal Husband at 9:45 PM, The Picture of Dorian Grey at 11:30, and ends with The Canterville Ghost at 1:30 AM. I’m a bit leery of the last because my memory of the short story does not include any American GIs but I’ll suppose we’ll see.

I had a lovely post written down on paper, just for you, but I left the book from which I wanted to pull quotes and other interesting titbits. I’m finding my travails through the Paris Review‘s archive so interesting that I wanted to do something similar with the Times Literary Supplement but the oversized binding with the collected archives from the early 20th century is “missing”. Going through microform isn’t nearly as fun so I may have to settle with the ones that start from the 60s. (Booooooo.) Maybe I’ll do it for the London Review of Books? Or maybe there’s another journal/magazine you think I should try.

Insomnia

Posted on: August 19, 2007

Then I’ll get to a James Schuyler post waiting in drafts — I promise.

It’s become very cliché to write about how litblogging has changed one’s life but I’m going to indulge myself. The most remarkable change for me is how often I’ve re-read novels that aren’t genre. Ever since I was 11 or so I developed the habit of re-reading my favourite comfort fiction, typically romances: Mills & Boons set in the Australian outback or Greek islands with the shift to single titles. I loved them for the romance, the relationship dynamics, the deliciously painful lows and the important character progress which had to involve overcoming assorted internal and external obstacles.

I read Lord of the Rings for the first time when I was 12. I found it on a charity ship that sold books at inexpensive prices; it offered the opportunity to try a fantasy novel as such books were not stocked in Jamaican book stores until the New Line films. Since then I’ve read LOTR twice (I think), The Silmarillion, my favourite, and stories from Unfinished Tales. I own Letters of Tolkien and read his biography — notable because since then I’ve never read another biography of my own accord (but have had to read a few for classes). All that happened during my teenage years.

As you can see, during that time rereading in my spare time was done for basic pleasure. For thick books like LOTR I kept an eye out for plot related things I may have missed but active analysis, or nurturing intentional sensitivity to the workings of any novel was not even considered. I had to reread for school, of course, and as I’ve often said I enjoyed 99% of the assigned texts, but in that milieu rereading had purely utilitarian purposes. I never intentionally employed any of my thematic sleuthing or historical research abilities to Annie John (Jamaica Kincaid) or A Man for All Seasons (Robert Bolt) (which we ended up reading in class). It never occurred to me that such skills would be of much use for casual reading because the skills were tailored to exam questions. Even now I experience initial difficulty when I attempt to think of a novel’s themes because my brain instinctively leaps back to CXC (‘O’ level) questions about “race and the family”; the pat categorizations make me uneasy and I think, Hmmm, no, the book must offer something more nebulous, less easily defined.

Four years of undergrad had no impact on my position. It took a current break from the classroom, literary magazines/journals, and sites like The Valve, The Reading Experience and Conversational Reading cultivated my interest in literary criticism in a manner that connected it to an everyday reading life. The litblogs I read in general recommended the sort of books that openly demanded deeper readings in comparison to the genteel 19th century classics to which I was accustomed, novels that certainly had heft but also a narrative style that could lead one merrily along, enjoying plot turns here and there, none the wiser to lurking meanings behind paintings of Even stars. Before then, in Jamaica with limited resources and no like-minded friends, contemporary literature for me meant Stephen King and Nora Roberts; when I desired anything weightier I stretched for a dependable Penguin Classic. (The publisher’s advantage in the Commonwealth, except Canada and maybe Australia, is that its popular classics dominate the shelves, with an occasional Oxford peeping through.)

Having my own blog, sharing my own thoughts has organically lead to me rereading novels without official prompting. Black Lightning by Roger Mais was the first to get repeated attention, and since then I’ve reread Jane Eyre (for no particular reason), Sleepless Nights by Hardwick and now Kingdoms of Elfin by Sylvia Townsend Warner. (Other novels get re-read in parts.) I reread Kokoro for an upcoming Quarterly Conversation review, which went without saying, but I was more than happy to do so.

The Warner is so privileged because I’ve decided which “proper essay” I shall do next to submit to literary entities — the fantasy article that isn’t about the books of any magical South Americans. I don’t really know which one I’m going to submit it to, in no small part due to the fact that I’m not sure what it’s going to look like yet. I have the “literary” stories collection, Kingdoms of Elfin; the respected-fantasy-collection-by-writer-most-genre-fans-would-recommend-to-sceptical-literati, Stranger Things Happen by Kelly Link (and yes, I know most give more regard to Magic for Beginners); and So Long Been Dreaming by various authors, the what-would-have-been-regular ol’ genre-but-gains-cachet-from-”postcolonial”-label. The label bugs me because of the inherent baggage it brings, but at least within the SF/F genre the angle gains some creative legitimacy because “most familiar memes of science fiction is that of going to foreign countries and colonizing the natives”, so wrote Nalo Hopkinson who co-edited. (Rest assured I came up with those disposable categorisations on the fly and am not using them seriously; and woohoo finally reading SF.)

Anyway, I’m looking forward to what I’ll come up with, if anything. I’ve caught Danielle‘s Reading Planitis and have idly considered other quests. I read two and a half D.H. Lawrence novels as a teen and left that period retaining vague details of their contents but a firm impression that he was a favourite novelist. Very odd. I can never read of him in print without seeing mentioned the typical qualification that he’s unfashionable. (For his portrayal of women apparently, but when has that ever mattered when it came to canon?) So I’m curious to learn a) if he earned the fuzzy favourites spot and b) reasons for the hate/love attitude from academia. George Bernard Shaw suffers from the same “unfashionable” stamp though I’ve yet to learn why that’s so. Recent spate of articles popping up in print and on-line about his plays, including one from the new Penguin Classics blog, and vague (always vague) youthful memories of reading lines from Saint Joan in grade 9 have stirred interest. Maybe I should form an Outmoded Authors reading challenge? Which authors do you know of that are not vogue?

Dickens is another author I used to say was a favourite, but his novels were among the first “serious lit” I read as a little girl, starting at around 12 and dropping off at around 16 or so. I’d like to reassess at least one or two of the ones I read before and a couple I did not. It’s nice to mull about one’s good intentions.

Last week Matt at Variety of Words blogged about his unfortunate experience at his local library. It’s a shame I hadn’t caught it then because I would have posted about it sooner and fully supported his sentiments. (It would matter so much, of course.) My local “library” has more or less turned into a community centre that happens to have books on the stacks. To my conservative, intolerant eye once a library needs a quiet room something has gone terribly wrong. (It should be the other way around — group rooms for people who need to speak at reasonable volumes.)

It’s clear to me that the local librarians see things differently. When I try to do my work at any study carrel it is them as often as anyone else who are speaking with what I like to call “cafeteria voices”, as if the government periodicals are 20 feet away from whatever location they happen to be in. Cell phone abuse is rampant regardless of age. Lessons are held right by the study carrels. (When I lived in Jamaica my tutor and I had lessons at the parish library but it was at group tables and we whispered as softly as possible; it’s not hard.) One has to do a smell check before going anywhere near them anyway, and hope that one’s neighbours are giggly teenagers instead of certain regulars who use the place as a home-away-from-home complete with dozens of grocery bags filled with three meals and assorted newspapers (?).

Quiet reading room? The park benches outside. (Seriously those spots are at any given time quieter than inside the library.) Keep in mind that the situation I describe is not during summer but early spring — the last time I went there before giving up and making the longer walk to campus.

Many persons are simply thrilled that the place is being used. I can’t ignore the benefits that the users are obviously reaping from the library, what with the high computer use and the growing ESL and Chinese books section. There’s still a book club and things have not deteriorated to the point that the place is hosting band practice (yet). Napping homeless people don’t bother me much — they’re quiet. And you can’t beat the offer of free books. I would sign a petition for it to get more government funding, or give a donation, just don’t ask me to go there.

It’s only made it clearer to me that whatever town I reside in must have a university, where the concept of what a library is has not disappeared. If you’re not student or faculty you have to pay for membership, but one can always pick up the books from the happening community spot and go to campus to read undisturbed. Mine has an excellent fiction collection and access to two other university libraries. And Starbucks, maligned as it is, never kicks out customers if they aren’t sitting with a frappuccino.


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