In Boo's afterward, she claims that her most reliable informants and interviewees were children, because death and pain and corruption still affected...moreIn Boo's afterward, she claims that her most reliable informants and interviewees were children, because death and pain and corruption still affected them, while a lifetime of extreme living conditions for the adults 'had sabotaged their innate capacity for moral action'. Many (privileged) American and Western readers poo-pooed this book for its sensational content, its voyeuristic affect on a distanced reader, its unbelievable-and-therefore-supposed-fictional dire, unrelenting hopelessness of modern life in Indian urban slums. To me, these readers suffer the same sabotaged innate capacity for moral action. If you are turning your back on this reality, because it appears too fabricated, or worse, because it appears too hopeless, you are turning your back on your own freedoms as a world citizen, granted the relatively lavish gifts of autonomy and a full pantry. What is right and what is good takes work to protect, and even greater work to resurrect. I see this in my own corner of the world: When access to a library is taken away from the "least of our brethren," our prisoners, it is easier to justify removing access to low-income neighborhoods, to schools, to medical patients, and soon, to the public at large. When access to clean water, meaningful education, effective public services like hospitals, police, and courts, is denied to the poorest in the world, it is not long before the world has justified removing access for all in the name of the powerful few. If that matters to you, you'd better pay attention. Doing nothing can mean losing everything. Doing one small thing can change a tidal current.
Bill Moyers says, "What's right and good doesn't come naturally. You have to stand up and fight for it -- as if the cause depends on you, because it does. Allow yourself that conceit -- to believe that the flame of democracy will never go out as long as there's one candle in your hand."(less)
Goodreads is about to get slammed with reviews of this book, as Novak just presented at the closing session of the American Library Association Confer...moreGoodreads is about to get slammed with reviews of this book, as Novak just presented at the closing session of the American Library Association Conference. 1000 exclusive ALA ARC's were distributed, but only after hearing Novak speak. And you know what? Novak is a very smart man. Being funny is such an unfair business; it seems a lot of people enjoy throwing a wet blanket on actors and writers who are funny. If it's not your brand of funny, then there must be something wrong with the writer, never the reader, and every point you make, even legitimate, insightful things that use humor as a vehicle, get slammed as peripheral, insignificant, or amateur, especially if that writer is successful in pop culture. A lot of folks I observed weren't willing to give Novak the credit that is his due, simply because they see "celebrity" and stop listening. It's their loss. This book is not only a delightful tool for engaging young children in literacy that feels like play, but it is also making a very strong argument for the power of language that I would hope most librarians could appreciate. A comic writer and stand-up comedian, if he wishes to appeal to an educated audience, makes it his business to understand language and how we manipulate it. He is exactly the right kind of person to be writing a children's book, because he is successful, not in spite of it. I put this children's book right up there with Battle Bunny, another excellent story and argument for the creative linguistic powers of children learning to use stories in ways that matter to them, not the author, not the publisher, not the teacher. Both Scieszka and Novak give kids the driver's seat on the trip through story, and we should celebrate this early experience in agency with literacy.
Not at all what I expected, and pleasantly deep and thoughtful. Reminded me quite a bit of The Hours, not just because of the specter of AIDS as an un...moreNot at all what I expected, and pleasantly deep and thoughtful. Reminded me quite a bit of The Hours, not just because of the specter of AIDS as an unrelenting presence in the narrative, but the inner narrative of memory and the ties that bind. (less)
Librarians from all over the nation descend on Las Vegas in 3 days. Like a good librarian, efficient and thrifty, the American Library Association lik...moreLibrarians from all over the nation descend on Las Vegas in 3 days. Like a good librarian, efficient and thrifty, the American Library Association likes to choose favorite vacation destinations, but always in the off season. I imagine that, while most of the thousands of descending librarians will bitch about the heat and unload their dollars on iced teas, souvenir tote bags, and perhaps an evening of entertainment with Celine Dion, few of them will contribute much to the betting pot. Did I mention that a majority of library events are taking place at Ceasar's Palace? It's hard to find a book about Vegas that isn't really about gambling, or murder, or murdering gamblers and gambling murderers. This book is, too, but Mcmanus's congenial tone, his Good Jim/Bad Jim complex, his real-guy demeanor contrasting with his larger-than-life portraits of Ted Binion, Sandy Murphy, and Rick Tabish, is a comforting parallel to my own humble poker past, my livelihood as a book-person, and my adrenaline-pumping dip into the fantasy-land of Vegas. The pots are bigger, the lights are even brighter than when McManus penned this over 10 years ago, and the murderers have even been set free. I imagine myself walking through desert heat in search of the presentation on patron-driven acquisitions, only to stumble into the nearest entry with AC blasting to the curb. I'm asked for a $20 cover, and the waitress's nipple-caps are blinking sunlight against a tray of iced neon cocktails, the sounds of slots and Guns N' Roses drowns out the terrified cries of other lost librarians, and I hunker to a bar stool to rest my weary feet. I've got a few dollars in my pocket. What to do? B.J. Novak is around here somewhere. So is Stan Lee. Alexander McCall Smith. Lois Lowry. Azar Nafisi. Even f-ing Jane Fonda is around here somewhere. But there's also a chance I might run into casino mogul Benny Behnen, if maybe I've accidentally stumbled in to Cheetah's or the Spearmint Rhino, or whatever club he's frequenting these days. Chances of meeting literati vs glitterati run around 60/40, I'm guessing. Whatever happens, I'm not counting my purse until we've cleared the runway.(less)
My nearly-12-year-old read this on my recommendation, and this is what he said: "I never read a book about Native Americans before, or living on a rese...moreMy nearly-12-year-old read this on my recommendation, and this is what he said: "I never read a book about Native Americans before, or living on a reservation. I didn't know that alcoholism killed so many people. And I never read about masturbation before."
I am so pleased to hear my son say the word "masturbation" to me without flinching, and that his first exposure was through Sherman Alexie. I am so pleased to hear him acknowledge that books expose him to new perspectives. That five-minute conversation made me feel like I did something right, and I have Sherman Alexie to thank. (less)
If I have ever been dragged to a book kicking and screaming, it was first The Holy Bible: King James Version, then Science and Health with Key to the...moreIf I have ever been dragged to a book kicking and screaming, it was first The Holy Bible: King James Version, then Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, and finally, though I demonstrably handled it with more maturity, Autobiography of a Yogi. I do not rate this book five stars, but rather all the stars, from one to five, in that it is both a piece of genius and metaphysical dreck, all paradoxically at the same time. The mysteries of the human consciousness are both specifically unpacked and hopelessly buried in one single narrative. Yoganandaji, through his visitation with the deceased Sri Yukteswar, explains the complexities of the causal, astral, and physical worlds, and the complicated hierarchical system of promotion that is apparently the fate of every living human being, and it is exhausting. I am happier in my agnostic ignorance. Somehow Sri Yukteswar got into a sweet internship with the Supreme Being, jumping out of the herd to assist in the astral greenroom for causal candidates. Without poking too much fun, I will accede that my cup is most likely not large enough to contain all the mind-stuff. I am empathetic with and also guardedly suspicious of the need to purchase lessons from SRF in order to learn the secrets of Kriya Yoga. It must be untainted, but must it also have a price? But I better get a handle on this soon -- I'm traveling to India this December, following the path of Yoganandaji's enlightenment with tour guides from the SRF. Not a path I chose, but a path that has been placed before me, and I would be a fool to turn it down. Ranchi, Calcutta (Kolkata), Varanasi, Puri -- seen with my own eyes. This book has served well as travelogue. It remains to be seen what other uses I will make of it. (less)
Sometimes a book needs to be nearly 500 pages in order to tell the story that needs to be told. This one requires it, although I was at times resistan...moreSometimes a book needs to be nearly 500 pages in order to tell the story that needs to be told. This one requires it, although I was at times resistant. Powers requires full immersion to get inside the story and understand his theme from the inside out. He asks a lot of the reader, and sometimes I didn't feel up to the task. But he did offer rewards, and some sentences offered their ripened fruit off the highest bough. Worth the trip to fetch the ladder. Theory of Mind, my pet, given pride of place in a work of fiction. I nearly fell out of bed when that worked itself in. Clearly an examination of Oliver Sacks, no? I mean, there couldn't be more road signs without actually using his name. What made Powers choose to get inside his head? Was Powers having a crisis of conscience himself? Do stories belong to us simply because we lived them? Is a story only truth because you tell it with empathy? So much to discuss here...(less)