Monday, September 05, 2011

Library Matters

Well, a return to blogging as promised to Em over at Em Types.

I had decided that between 9pm and 10pm I would work on a cover letter and I'd write a 500 word essay on the topic of Why My Library is Important to Me for the contest of the same name. (Our current Toronto mayor is trying to cut 10% from every municipal program's budget and the Toronto Public Library workers' union is fighting back and holding a contest. Winners can win lunch with authors like Margaret Atwood and Michael Ondaatje.)

I stared at a blank page for a while and decided it would be easier to riff on why my library is important to me if I blogged it first.

So what is my library to me? It's not as if I don't own enough unread books.

It is, corny as it sounds, a sanctuary.

  • A place to be surrounded by books without having people ask you if you need help.
  • A place to read books without having to buy a coffee.
  • A place that reminds me of all the things I have yet to learn. This sets it apart from the internet which constantly reminds me of all the things I wish I did not know.
  • A place to research and study, and to cheaply photocopy pages to mark-up later.
  • A place to be inspired by books that people leave on tables.

A public library (as opposed to a school library - though, those are important too) is place where a nerdy girl can sit and learn about the world without having to deal with peer pressure or fend off questions about 'how far she's gone with a boy'?

  • A place to be around people without being really having to interact with them.
  • A place that provides me with unending optimism for the human race. Every opportunity that a child does not discover at home or at school, they can still discover at their public library for free. Classical music, opera, films, novels, graphic novels, short stories, poetry, plays, magazines - a wealth of specific information that's been edited and peer-reviewed available for free!

The library is critical to my idea of a functioning society. It is like an intellectual safety net and vitally important to new immigrants learning English - and Toronto is mostly immigrants (including me). Is it naive and hopeful to think that at least Toronto's homeless can find something to read when they wake up from their nap at the Reference Library? Sure. But once the homeless or low-income are at the library, isn't it a relief to know that if they need to look up a shelter or go to a seminar on fighting bedbugs that help is available?

I believe in libraries because I believe in self-improvement and knowledge being power, or at least, that the withholding of knowledge leads to powerlessness. In the library I didn't have to call my mother constantly to quell her worrying, it was, in a way, the place I could be most free as a 13-year-old. I didn't have to divulge what I chose to look at or read. I grew up in a fairly well-read, liberal household, but if I'd grown up in a more closed-minded atmosphere, the library would be the place where I could safely explore beyond the limits that others set up. The library was an important part of my childhood and adolescence. And if I end up old and alone, the library (whether in building form, or mobile, with large-print and audio books) is where I will find the solace and comfort and company of books.

I guess Edward P. Morgan (in Clearing the Air, 1963) already said it better:
A book is the only place in which you can examine a fragile thought without breaking it, or explore an explosive idea without fear it will go off in your face. It is one of the few havens remaining where a man's mind can get both provocation and privacy.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Suzan-Lori Parks Extras

To anyone still reading this... I'll be back. Meanwhile, I'm posting the following for my Discussion Group, as we discuss Getting Mother's Body by Suzan-Lori Parks.
COPYRIGHT REMAINS WITH AUTHOR ON EVERYTHING POSTED. I will be pulling these jpegs once the discussion is over.

So first, some pages of Topdog/Underdog, Parks' Pulitzer-winning stage play:
I've posted Park's notes about inspiration and style.

And here are the first three pages of the play:

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Days Grow Short

So, it's September. Sorry for the silence all of August. August took some unexpected turns and vanished.

I'm re-reading "Disgrace" by Coetzee for school. It's not fun, but it's forcing me to read it with a more analytical eye, which is great.

Have been writing lots. Reading lots of Lorrie Moore short stories. Am going to go see her read at this year's International Festival of Authors at Harbourfront.

Gearing up for some self-reflection leading up to Yom Kippur, so I might not post again till after September 27th.

See you soon...

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Zoetrope Contest

The 13th Annual Zoetrope All-Story Short Fiction Contest is accepting entries. Deadline is October 1st. Entries from outside U.S. accepted. All the details are at that link.

Sorry for the patchy blogging. Life's been fascinating lately and in a good way. And when life gets like that, sometimes you don't want to stop and blog it, you just want to live it.


If you're in Toronto, I'll be at the Old Mill Inn this evening to catch a performance of Much Ado About Nothing in the Wedding Garden.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Curated Shelving

Wait, wait, that post below, with the shelf?

The designers are Mike and Maaike, and you can learn more about this shelf at their site. It is first in a series of "curated shelves". This one is called "Religion" and is created to hold "the world's most influential religious texts together".

I'm more in love with the design than the idea of someone else curating my books. (I'm picky.)

The idea of my books sitting snugly in their own little cubbies, or aligned from the tops rather than the bottom kinda thrills me.

Come upstairs/I'll force-feed you/book covers

Book Covers
Can I ever get enough gorgeous, startling book cover design? No. Delicious book covers with credits and notes are at this blog, Covers. It is updated by a design firm called Fwis, who design, you guessed it, book covers. Yum! And here's another book cover blog, because you've been good, Book Covers Anonymous. Some of the posts highlight different covers used for US/UK editions. I could look at these all day.

Want to design your own now? You can buy these naked Penguins and go wild. I bought The Waves and I intend to harass an artist friend until he designs the cover.

And from the Covers blog, this shelf, this shelf,
I WANT IT. I want many many like it, all custom-carved to fit my books. Giant puzzles on my walls. Imagine?


I have been trying to use the word gavage in my story. It means force-feed. It can be used regarding the feeding of infants who cannot suck, or people who need super-alimentation. It can also refer to force-feeding as torture, and the way geese are fed to create foie gras.

I can't use it in my story. It's the right image, but the wrong word. I've checked all my dictionaries (I have a collection) and thesauruses, and most do not have the word. My French and my medical dictionaries have it though, as it is a French word and medical term.

Sometimes english feels so limiting.

Come Upstairs

Now I am trying to decide if my character would say:

Come upstairs, I have to show you the shoes I bought.
Come upstairs, you need to see the shoes I bought.

She's a small-n narcissist, a sophisticated drama queen, generous and selfish at once. I can't decide if she'd stick with the pronoun "I" - "I" have to show you, or whether she'd prefer to tell her friend what to do - "you need to see". The "come upstairs" is already imperative. Maybe I should follow Gordon Lish's idea of letting the beginning of a sentence dictate where it should end.

Come upstairs and see the shoes I bought.
Come upstairs. Come see the shoes I bought.

I'll work on it.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Civil Elegies

On Friday, July 10th, I went to hear Canadian poet Dennis Lee read his 1972 work, Civil Elegies, as part of The Scream Literary Festival.

At the event, If Hope Disorders Words, Lee read Civil Elegies in its entirety (and it was the first time he had publicly done so - or maybe the first time since its original publication - I'm not sure).

The poet Jacob McArthur Mooney did a wonderful introduction of Lee, and has also written an essay for Open Book about Civil Elegies where he calls it "the saddest book in the history of Canadian letters". (You can also read an excerpt of the essay on poet Paul Vermeersch's blog.)

Before the event I read some of Lee's work - mostly from Un and YesNo, and it was powerfully musical and energetic. There was an intensity - even a violence to some of the lines, yet Lee read them with a much slower, quieter voice (than I had) which gave them a more lyrical quality and tone. It was lovely. Check his books out if you like your language twisted and wrenched, and moving.

As a bonus, here are some poems by Paul Vermeersch and some poems by McArthur Mooney.