Saturday, November 29, 2008

Never trust anyone over 25

I just finished "Little Brother" by Cory Doctrow and I loved it and will recommend it: it was one of the most fun and simultaneously most political things I've ever read. I felt the insane pressure of the past 8 years government pressing in, and then got to remember that it really happened, we really did away with that regime through the power of voting. It is the perfect novel for the perfect time. But, I have a few thoughts to organize about it as well:

-Marcus was a Mary Sue right? I mean that's fine, but it was like I was watching a Brad Pitt movie and afterwords I can't remember the name of Brad Pitt's character even though it was the title of the movie because all I could remember was that Brad Pitt was in it.

-I just got home from Thanksgiving with my family and all I can think is that I don't want my baby nephew, Zane, to grow up in a world like Marcus is living in. But it is too late. And it is our fault. And at the same time I feel like electing Obama might be a reversal in those fortunes, and for the first time I am truly and actually proud to be a member of this fed up nation.

-Long preachy interludes about the technical side of programming and hacking and math are sometimes fun to read in narrative fiction, too many of them and no matter how good the story is and how integral they are to the plot and I kind of want to throw the book across the room when I'm being told that I NEED to take up learning Python to be a complete person. Teenagers today already know so much of this stuff that I'm not sure how much of it really was integral to the plot. The much sneakier and better interludes were about history, the kind of history that the official textbooks "don't have room for."

-The novel did a good job of detailing both sides of the arguments (while definitely still favoring a side, and for which I'm afraid we are preaching to the choir when recommending), but the book also did a bad job of humanizing the people on the other side. Obviously the DHS shouldn't be, but the duped people who believed the DHS was actually trying to help, they needed more realistic faces. It isn't all just old stodgy people set in their ways. It isn't just your parents and business people and snotty kids you never liked anyway.

The ending was too abrupt. Like this one.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Mysterious Benedict Society II: Even More Peril

The original MBS was an audiobook review I meant to do here but got distracted by life the universe and everything. I really loved MBS on audiobook. I think it is perhaps the best thing I've ever put in my car's stereo system. Better than the Cure's Disintegration, better than The Mountain Goats "best of" mix a friend made me, better than The Weepies, Josh Ritter, Stars, and Chris Crutcher's "Whale Talk" combined. I loved Del Roy's narration and the ingenuity and the villains and well, everything. I was hoping that I would love MBS II as much, but alas, it was not to be. I think Mr. Stewart got caught up in the classic blunder of "if a little is good, than a lot must be really good." But no, a million daring escapes and dreadful recaptures do not make for great listening or reading. By the second or third one I was bored, and since I was driving this is rather dangerous. I am as likely to fall asleep while driving and Benedict would be while watching "The Daily Show." I also felt that the pure evil one-dimensional nature of the villains stopped suiting in this book. Benedict was delving into his past as was Curtain, but only Benedict seemed to have learned anything about himself. The children were all growing up and becoming more complex. But in MBS II, even S.Q. Pedalian, so refreshing in the first book lost his luster when he didn't even start to question Curtain's motives and his own actions. No one, not even in this fictional world, is that dense. I do appreciate that both stories included both good and bad adults, helpful and dangerous older people, but relied on the childrens' talents and ingenuity to move the plot and to get themselves in and out of scrapes. MBS II definitely followed through with that idea, so kudos there. Still though, while this book needed some serious editing and logic applied liberally, but it comes out heads and shoulders above many other books published today.

Happy T-day everyone. I give thanks for the gift of Jay Asher and 13 Reasons Why, another amazing audiobook, and the new blog telling a version of the story.

Smorgsboard of Books

Here are the books I've started and am slowly but surely working my way through:

Ingrid Law's "Savvy", which is very very cute, but on the bottom of the bookstack because I bought it and Ingrid Law signed it so it isn't going anywhere.

Two historically accurate and interesting but also very very long mysteries. "Speaks the Nightbird" and "Mistress of the Art of Death" are the titles that should have warned me they'd be hard to get into (I've been reading both those since July.)

Emma Bull's "Finder",Someone on a list serve told me it was the saddest book they'd ever read. I haven't gotten to that part yet, but I like the premise so I hope to get the chance.

The Brothers Torres is a great book, but since it is not a part of the Mock Printz group I'm reading I also put it toward the bottom of the pile after getting a few delicious chapters into it.

Adam Rex's The True Meaning of Smekday. I really want to like you, Adam Rex, but you make it so DIFFICULT. Why are the characters so clever, but yet I just find myself putting down the book every time I make it only a few pages in?

Dear John Green,

You are brilliant. Everyone knows you are brilliant. Witty and clever and well read and musically compatible to the point that I believe you and I would make beautiful babies together if I were single and you were single and somehow we were to meet and I was actually able to speak in coherent phrases. But I'm pretty sure I read this book when it was "Looking For Alaska." I still can't put it down. It is the #1 book at the top of the pile. Still, I kind of think it is time to write a book not about a boy lusting and questing after an unattainable ideal of a girl while palling around with quirky friends. Just a thought.
xoxox The Awkward Librarian

Finally I just finished "Bog Child" by Siobhan Dowd which I really wanted to care about because in high school I got really caught up in the sheer dumbfounding craziness of the Irish conflict and also I majored in anthropology, specifically biological anthropology, at Indiana University. The writing was well done, but it felt like two separate stories instead of one coherent life. And the dream sequences were kind of ridiculous.
Also I have the copy with the cover bearing a ridiculous pretend photo shopped shirt. Who are we trying to fool here? And what exactly are we trying to censor?

Friday, November 21, 2008

I made a promise with myself.

I'll go see the Twilight movie at the 2nd run theater. I will not go see it tonight, this weekend, or possibly even in 2008. If it doesn't make it to the 2nd run theater in Logan Square then I will Netflix it. I am not excited about this movie. I am NOT excited about this movie. The power of cheese compels me! The POWER of Cheese compels me!
Actually, that bit about not being really excited is true. I'm so tired of the word Twilight and reading all the reviews, commentary, and talkityblahtalk that I actually am wishing the series had never been written. I wasn't a librarian at the time of the Harry Potter phenom and I wonder if I would have liked the books as well as I do had I been. *For those of you on an awkward watch:awkward sentence for the win!*

And just so this is not just another post about Twilight. I will pose the question, what is your favorite book made into a movie? And have you ever found a movie that you actually liked MORE than the book. I have, Last of the Mohicans for me is a killer movie, but when I read it I found the it to be a long tedious " classic (read: somehow we accept inherent racism because it is old?) book you read for school" type novel.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Another random thought about fans.

More musings on fandoms possibly brought to you by the fact I am fan who frequently gets made fun of for her major fandom (the band once know as A Fire Inside if you must know) because it is a fandom that seems to be mostly centered around a much younger crowd these days.And my fandom mostly ever centered around the online fan group The Despair Faction. But I was there for a long time, and a part of it. So I wonder, do S.R. Ranganathan's laws apply to fandoms as well.
1. Fandoms are for use.
2. To every fan their fandom.
3. Every fandom has its fan. (If Legally Blonde: The Musical has an active fandom, anything can.)
4. Save the time of the fan.(Perhaps by having links on our library website to fandom resources?)
5. (or fandoms generally) is/are a growing organism.

Actually these make sense to me. I like it. I think I might be stealing some or all of this from the fandom presentation I saw at YALS. But, I'm really tired and feeling weird after delving to far into Kafka on the Shore.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The real fans? or Twilight Poseurs

Everyone is talking about Twilight. Ah, duh. I keep awkwardly talking about it with other librarians and teenagers. At my first Teen Council meeting it was suggested that I do something "Twilight" themed. And, probably the next Twilight thing that gets released I will. It seems likely that more movies will come out. Based on this interview. Everyone has been talking about Twilight for years now and it doesn't seem like anyone is going to be stopping soon. I think I have plenty of time for a Twilight prom or party.
The phenomena first hit me while I was in Library School. In my kids' lit class no less than 6 students booktalked it as a part of our "booktalk two-three books to a selected audience" assignment. 6! Out of a class of maybe 15-20 people. I had to check these books out. So I put myself on the waiting list at my public library. And, I got swept up, because Jane Eyre was my favorite book at 13. Despite the fact that I think Bella needs to shut up about how not great she is already. Jane was the same way, and I grew up thinking that is what would attract the attention of broodingly handsome (and potentially insane)rich men. Guess what, self-esteem that low isn't attractive! It is cause for theraputic intervention to get to the root of self-loathing! Bella has issues! Jeez, you'd think at least Dr. Cullen would get that but he doesn't say a word. Maybe vampires just don't even notice whiny humans prattling on about how not good enough they are. Of, course I know (and it seems that most teens see through this as well) the device's purpose. It is to convince us all, no matter how not pretty and not special we feeel, that one day our brooding hot-as-icy hell vampire prince Rochester boyfriend will find us. Even those of us who are nearly 30 (or 40, or whatever) and already have perfectly stunning but normal relationships, get swept into this fantasy.
So I have to wonder about the director of the movie in an interview she did with MTV that went like this:

MTV: Did you enjoy taping "MTV Spoilers" the other night and doing the Q&A with all those die-hard Twilighters?

Catherine Hardwicke: Yeah, let's have the real fans! Those people were not faking it. They were into it.

I'm sorry, what? What do you mean "real fans" and "not faking it?" Is there a legion of teenaged "Twilight Poseurs" out there, pretending to love trashy vampire romance because their friends do? Because, I find that hard to believe. Not impossible, peer pressure is a powerful thing, but I find it hard to imagine it being powerful enough to generate this level of craziness. I'd like for other people to weigh in on this topic. Are thousands of people just pretending to love The Twilight Saga when secretly they think it is drek? Or is the idea behind the story and the tropes behind the characters so strong that all these fans are "real fans?" How are we even defining real fans? the ones who will buy into any promotion and marketing and merchandize that remotely stinks of vampire? The ones who love every second of the books and re-read them over and over again, but never buy another thing, never post to a forum, never engage in internet warfare over the Jacob/Edward debate? The ones who write involved fanfic but got the books from the library? I love fandom as particpatory culture, and I'm glad some fans got to meet the director and ask questions. But real fans versus fake fans seems alienating to me for any sort of fandom. And as a fan (and occasionally FAN) of many things, I resent the implications.

And thus ends my awkwardly long post about the nature of the fandom beast and the Twilight juggernaut.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Becoming the Awkward Librarian.

Is there already a blogger called the Awkward Librarian? If not I'm claiming that as my secondary title. In fact, there, I just did it. I am now Reading Sarah: The Awkward Librarian. I think that awkwardness has a place, and maybe librarians should be awkward. That is a part of the stereotype, right? But we should not be too awkward. The right amount of awkwardness puts people at their ease, but too much makes it impossible to help anyone with anything.

I may have found the balance accidentally while experiment in my Awkward Lab. Future experiments will be noted, possibly in all their gory stammering detail. First up was the time Gene Yang cut in front of me (politely) in the lunch line at YALS: in that particular case general social ineptitude= general social acceptance. However, this balance is delicate and tricky when working with young adults. Social ineptitude, while expected for most adults and authority figures, might still be a sign of weakness and may perhaps one day lead to my downfall. Only time and anecdotes will tell.

Unawkward but angering:
Today I saw a book that I'm not even going to bother linking to here. The title was something about how technology is making the youngins all stupid. The subtitle was the oh-so-clever "Never trust anyone under 30." I chuckled for milliseconds in wonder at age divides, generation gaps, and their misguided perpetuation through really trashy incendiary non-fiction. This book was a Harlequin "Blaze" romance of "researched" materials. Thanks for making my job harder, jerkface.