A Metaphorical Space, With Pandering!

Now I will show off, so get ready. (Or just move on, I know it can be tiresome.)

See, it has come to my attention that a bunch of my readers are actually librarians. Not to mention all the other readers, who are very clearly book-loving sorts. All of which makes me feel ultra-cool, in a geeky sort of way.

Add to this, the extremely pleasant sorts of comments people leave here. You guys have been oh so helpful on the many, many We Recommends that we post here, and every nice comment that comes just makes me feel like the world is that much less of a cesspool than I thought.

And I somehow put those two thoughts together and came up with the idea that this blog, for me at least, is sort of like the library, if we can say that the internet as a whole is, let's say, middle school. The library/blog for me is a small safe place where the nerdy people are talking about Caddie Woodlawn and being quiet, while outside it people are raucously yelling at each other and dipping each others' heads in the toilet. You know, metaphorically.

I realize this is a very self-serving vision, but it feels true to me, and it's because of you readers, and I am endlessly grateful for it. So thank you for letting me be, at least in my mind, the metaphorical librarian, sitting at the table in the middle, while you guys sit quietly at the tables and share books.

A Hurricane Week—What We Found Out at the Library

First know this: we are fine. Better than fine. Able, for fleeting moments at least, to appreciate the ridiculous luxury of our daily life—the electricity, the warmth, the preserved food, the dryness of our floors and walls and beds.

There has been no school for a week, which is…refreshing? Strange? Both odd and wonderful. My faithful collaborators have been reading steadily and widely, if not deeply somehow. While this should be an opportunity for clear and deep focus, somehow it hasn't been so for us. There is an unsettled feeling to everything, a sort of fracturing of our attention.

What we were able to do, was volunteer at our local library. We had gotten the alert that many of their regular workers were unable to get there, so I headed over, and when I got the OK to have under-18 help, so did Diana.

We got to wheel one of those book carts around and shelve books. I must say, it felt pretty cool, finally seeing what it's like in the back room (spoiler: lots of books).

Also? Amusing fact: Ayn Rand was classified as YA. Disturbing fact: Ayn Rand was in the "assignment books" section (what kind of assigment?). Neutral fact: at least in our library, graphic novels for adults are mixed in with other fiction, including fantasy, sci fi, and romance, in an invigoratingly democratic hodgepodge. (Yes, I just wrote "hodgepodge," and it felt great.)

While that was satisfying, we still feel…strange. We are so lucky, and are very appreciative of our luck. I hope you this finds you all warm and dry and safe.

Local Brooklyn people can also find volunteer opportunities here. Though I think the library is all set for now.

And I Went to KidLitCon, But I Was Still Myself

I did it. That's what I tell myself anyway. I went to KidLitCon2012, and I gave my presentation. I figured out how to work the non-Mac computer, and I listened. I got to see the amazing in- and under-side of the New York Public Library, which is the coolest place in the world. It has outsides in its inside. See here:

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We were inside, but what you see—that marble expanse—is the old exterior wall, that now lives inside the building like a secret. Also: the old New York City reservoir, on which the public library was built, is still there. Its strange rough walls exist as a kind of backdrop.

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Those stones? The old reservoir. I can't tell you how cool I found this. I wish I had my normal camera, instead of my phone.

Here it is all together: the crazy reservoir wall, the marble exterior trapped in the interior for all eternity, the window that used to look outside now looking inside. If I were going to run away in 5th grade, this is where I think I would come. Though no question: it does feel haunted.

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I did get to feel all special and like I worked there, because the room where I presented was here:

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Not only did I have the awesome velvet rope, but if you look down the hall (and pretend it's not blurry), you can see that there are also ornate metal gates, which you had to slip through. Thank you to all the kind and thoughtful people who attended my presentation. Endless, endless thanks to the NYPL, and to Betsy Bird, who organized the conference with help from Monica Edinger and other amazing people. They are who allowed it to exist, and gave me a place to present, and a forum for so many interested people to communicate together about the books they love.

I always wish, with things like this, that I will go there and instantly feel, "I belong! I belong so damn much that I will lose any self-consciousness I ever had, and will move freely and gaily among the others, exchanging views and thoughts, and shedding my normal self like a dirty old cloak."

This did not happen. And probably it would be a little creepy if it happened? But.

But I do wish I wasn't seized by shyness. That I didn't get quiet and shut off when I'm in a group of more than, oh, one person. I wish I could just walk up to people I wanted to talk to and talk to them. I wish I didn't convince myself in the moment "It will be better if I just go off alone" and then later think, "Wait, I didn't have to do that."

Maybe someday, I will be different. In any case, here is the most beautiful picture I took of the library.

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It has it all, the spooky reservoir, the outside inside, then soaring up and away to the sky. I must say that I am very very tempted to find a metaphor in here somewhere, but I think I will leave it alone.

You Thought the Last Post Was Old School? We’re Drowning in Nostalgia Here

We went to the library, just like I told you.

And I don't mean to say this was a momentous event. We go to the library a lot—that's how we get the big fines, you see. And there's something satisfingly strange about the book selection in a library—much stranger than it is in a bookstore. There's no sense that you have to get the newest hottest books, it's more like you're challenged to find the oldest, strangest books, the ones you never knew existed.

Our library, which is not really our library (still being renovated, aaack!) but is the main branch, has, among its strange books and out-of-print wonders, a crazy extra floor at the top. It's past the escalators and the big open spaces. You go into a short blocky staircase that somehow has five separate mini-flights of stairs, that turn, and turn, and turn. You pass the wall that says "vandalizing will be punished," and just when you think you're going to end up in an attic somewhere, you get to the top and the light and air flood in and you're in the Art and Music sections. And guess what they have there? These.

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Do you remember these? That's right, sort of like the old milk-delivery bottles. I almost didn't recognize them, though of course I did. Oh, card catalogues, I didn't know I'd missed you!

Do you remember how awesome it feels to pull one out, that long slow heavy drag, the cool metal of the loop against your finger? And inside, all the awesome cards?

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With the faded typing and the incomprehensible spidery notes? Not to go all Nicholson Baker on you, but it was kind of transcendent. Chestnut looked through the scores and fake-books, and I got to play with the card catalogues. It should probably have been the other way around, right?

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They seem like artifacts someone forgot to bury. It felt like a treasure map, you know? And so strange that it was for all the songs—not for the books, for some reason.

I think it's my new favorite floor of the library. Look forward to lots of talk about graphic novels and opera libretti.