organizing professionally

Tomorrow begins my first conference as an employed librarian. Sort of. I actually won’t get into the city in time for the opening keynote so I’m going to a Maker Education event as soon as I hit town instead. But a pile of library-folk are going to be there

I’ve been trying to do more to get involved and though the British Columbia Library Association may not be super high prestige, I know and like people who do stuff with it. Since March(ish) I’ve been blogging for the Information Policy Committee, and I’ve been polishing up at least one YA book review for each issue of the Young Adults and Children’s Services section’s quarterly newsletter (YAACING) since I graduated (here’s the most recent issue). I’m doing a couple of short writeups of conference sessions for the BCLA Browser too. I would have been presenting on the Hot Topics panel at the conference this year but my employers expressed a preference for me not to do that, so I was replaced by the awesome Tara Robertson, who will kill it, I am positive.

I’m looking forward to this conference. I’m growing to appreciate hanging out with people and shooting shit about issues I’m interested in. Last weekend I was at a birthday party (in Vancouver) that had a high percentage of information professionals and sitting there talking about what it means if libraries become pointers at info instead of holders of info, or the travesty that there’s no wikipedia/git repository of MARC records, brought home why people live in cities instead of off in the hinterlands. Clustering people with different ways of looking at things does seem to make for better thought, which may be obvious but my distrust of groups of more than like 6 people needs some evidence every once in a while.

Which isn’t to say it’s not fun being the lone voice talking about high concept issues in our library (branch). There’s not a lot of pressure to turn those kinds of ideas into something tangible, because the energy isn’t focused in that direction. It’s possible that if I were in a place where innovation and awesomeness were required I’d fall completely flat. Here, I’m impressive because I can work Excel, and the fact that no one comes to my non-storytime events isn’t a huge deal.

Anyway, going to this conference is the kind of thing I need. It’ll be nice to talk about library issues (beyond stock rotation) with people in person instead of through my keyboard.

book review: the ladies of grace adieu and other stories

It’s been a while since I read Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mister Norrell, so the stories in The Ladies of Grace Adieu that dealt with characters from that novel probably had a bit more for recently finished readers, but as a book of fairy stories, the whole collection was very good.

Embroidery emerges as a motif in a couple of stories, but faerie are far far more prominent. I enjoy Clarke’s depictions of the fae as being bizarre aliens who don’t understand human concerns very well. The story set in the town of Wall (from Neil Gaiman’s Stardust) was probably my favourite in the book because the human was clever enough to get out with his skin intact, but not able to pull out a real victory. It felt very satisfying in the way a much older story would, which is what you want out of a book of faerie tales.

book review: why read the classics?

Why Read the Classics? is a collection of essays by Italo Calvino about literature. He discusses Ovid and Aristotle and Homer, all the way to Hemingway and Borges. Calvino writes interestingly enough about the topics, but especially when it came to authors I hadn’t read a lot of, the essays weren’t so compelling as to make me want to fix these gaps in my education. Probably my favourite essay was the one about Hemingway and why people love and then abandon his work, basically without huge embarrassment. So yes, a decent book but not the weird and awesome experimental writing of Calvino’s that I prefer.

book review: life sucks

Life Sucks is a comic about a vampire named Dave who has a crush on a goth girl in Los Angeles. He works a shitty job on the night shift at a convenience store owned by his vampire master, an old-school Romanian vampire who lost his fortune in the dot com bust.

I liked the world-building and the pseudo-realistic look at the logistics of being a vampire in the modern day and how it’s different from the romantic ideal. The disillusionment of the wannabe vampires is not as forceful as it is in Preacher, though. The story itself doesn’t move very quickly, which I suppose is thematic and resonates with anyone wasting his or her potential (Dave’s very aware that being a vampire could be way better than his situation is) working a dead-end job. It’s 186 pages and could be just as good if it was half that.

book review: the children of men

Disclosure: I loved the movie version of P.D. James’ The Children of Men and without having read the book made the assumption that they would be very similar. Because I am strangely naïve about movie adaptations I guess? I’d have thought I was a cynic in these matters by now, whatever. The book in this case is very different from the movie.

The best way to think of it is to consider the two stories to be parallel tales about the same world. In this world, there have been no babies born for decades. Humanity has inexplicably gone sterile. Here, the book and movie part ways.

In the book the protagonist Theo is in his fifties and is a history professor with no real students anymore since even the youngest people are over 25. The youngest people are known as Omegas and they terrify the aging populace, since they were brought up doted on and knowing they would be the final humans ever. Theo is the cousin to Xan, the despotic ruler of England. A bumbling bunch of fools ask him to talk to the ruler to make some sort of change. Against his better judgment, he does so.

The book is about that relationship between Theo and Xan, who are both not-young men. Theo has all this guilt from accidentally killing the daughter he and his ex-wife once had, which plays a big part. The bumbling fools are trying to be terrorists to get England changed, but they aren’t effective. There is talk about the Isle of Man, where the prisoners are exiled to, but the book doesn’t take us there. The climax in the book takes place in a woodshed near Wales. It’s very different.

I like the movie version better but I love the idea that both stories happened, with different participants and results. If more stories from the childless future intrigue you, the book is worth your time. If you mainly loved Children of Men for that amazing Steadicam shot, there’s not a lot for you in the book.

book review: how to live safely in a science fictional universe

I loved How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu so much. It’s a story about a time machine repair guy named Charles Yu who’s been living safely off in a null-zone where time doesn’t really pass, thinking about his father who disappeared, the inability to change the past, the trajectory of a life and closed time-like loops. But really it’s about loneliness and memory.

It’s a quiet book, introspective. I think I’d thought it would be funnier, but instead it was just beautiful. Also a good crossover book for people who like literature and aren’t necessarily interested in “science fiction.” There’s lots of stuff tossed in there in technical language, that’s cryptic but decipherable. It encourages study and reading slowly, really settling into the book (which is not long at all).

Definitely one of my new favourites. Yu’s new short story collection, Sorry Please Thank You, is now on my must read list.

book review: sandman slim

I’ve heard about Richard Kadrey’s Sandman Slim books but never paid much attention to them. I think I expected something more like When Gravity Fails: a gritty cyberpunk type thing. So I was surprised that it was all magic and ass-kicking, not clever understated detective work.

Stark is a man who just came back to Los Angeles from 11 years in hell and he’s looking for his old magical friends who turned on him and sent him there. I loved how the book throws you right in, like you’ve missed something that would explain how Stark wasn’t dead when he went to hell. Instead of worrying about that Stark just steals money, uses a hell-coin to make decisions and basically cuts a swathe through the magickal underworld.

It was fun, but had less oomph to it than I’d hoped. Good popcorn reading.