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Wednesday, August 31, 2005 at 9:08 PM

Generations

I am not much of a fiction reader. I don't dislike it, but it is never the first thing I pick up. However, being in the profession that I am, I know that most readers in this world prefer fiction. So in order to be the best librarian I can be, I pick up a novel every now and then. In truth, this is probably not nearly as noble as it sounds because my tastes would tend to be classified "literature" as opposed to the various genres or bestsellers the public finds infinitely more interesting.

So in the spirit of consciously expanding my horizons, I picked up Ian McEwan's Amsterdam, winner of the illustrious Booker Prize in 1998. I guess he is a good writer. The situation he creates is believable. The way the characters react is credible. The characters remain consistent throughout the whole story, they never do anything that conflicts what you expect them to. All the threads come together, there is no situation or dialog that is extraneous. The pacing is good, it pulls you along enough so that you want to finish the book. Not every novel does this; I have read some otherwise good novels that have shortcomings in one or more of these areas. Another positive aspect of the book is that it is rather diminuitive in size, and less than 200 pages long. At least in my world, this is a compelling reason for it be read cover to cover because it is so short and doesn't take up much time to accomplish.

But in the end, my advice is to save your time for the thousands of other good books that are out there. I will be open about my particular bias -- when I read a book, I want to walk away with something I did not have prior to reading. In a work of "literary" fiction, I am looking for some insight into human nature or some angle of looking at the world I had not previously considered that is at least remotely appealing. And this is what Amsterdam utterly fails to do.

The main problem with Amsterdam is its characters. Each and every one of them is despicable. There is Molly, who has had tons of boyfriends and lovers, regardless of whether either party is married or not. Clive is a composer who witnessed a rape and did nothing to stop it. Vernon is a mediocre newspaper editor who turns into Kenneth Star. And then there is George, Molly's husband, who is generally unliked, overbearing, and manipulative. The supporting characters are about as savory as this crew. Apparently, the only character who possessed any charm was Molly, and she starts out dead. The only redeeming aspect of the story is that most of them get what they deserve in the end.

Why on earth would anybody give a damn about these characters? Why, indeed. I found myself wondering why the hell am I spending precious time reading a book about a bunch of self-absorbed, hypocritical, ambitious baby boomers fueled by delusions of pompous granduer? Personally, I have had enough of this particular generation. I will be so happy about 20 years from now when they have ceded control of the media to the next generation and have started to die off so we will no longer be plagued by the continual spotlight they seem to feel they deserve.

Of course, there are a number of historical reasons which would explain why and how they have managed to co-opt the media. Their mere birth hailed the formation of a term and definition of a whole demographic: Baby Boomers. Growing up on TV, by the time they were young adults in the 1960's, they had learned well how to manipulate the media. Of course, hippies come immediately to mind. In the late 60's, you couldn't open a newspaper or magazine without seeing some sort of article on the Generation Gap, the drug culture, or the Counter Coulture. Even the academics were taking them seriously. The manufacturers had a field day offering the public all the accouterments of beads, headbands, and flowery prints to transform the 9 to 5 grunt into a "weekend hippie." Despite all the publicity they got, (which presumably applied to all youth) the truth is that not everybody in that age bracket was a hippie or even close. Not a even a simple majority, probably 15% or less. And yet, everybody in America knew exactly who the following people were: Timothy Leary (not offically a boomer, but definitely regarded as a spokesperson), Abbie Hoffman, Bob Dylan, Arlo Guthrie, Ken Kesey, not to mention the Beatles and the Stones. Bob Dylan had his film, Don't Look Back, and the Beatles had Hard Day's Night. The whole point of these films was to follow them around being marvelous. Arlo Guthrie had his own movie, wherein he played none other than, Arlo Guthrie. Abbie Hoffman was a genius at getting media attention. From supporting Pigasus the Pig for president in 1968 to levitating the Pentagon, the man made headlines. Everybody could connect Leary with "Turn on, tune in, drop out." Monterey Pop, Woodstock, and even Altamont were made into full length movies. No wonder Baby Boomers got the idea they were fascinating as all get out. And to be completely truthful, I think they actually were for a brief time.

Unfortunately, they didnt' all die at 30. They grew up and became part of the Establishment. Not that there's anything wrong with being 30, or that there's anything wrong with growing up. It happens to the best of us. The problem I have with it all is their insistence that their experience is singular and completely different from everybody else's. Lots of people have lost, and are still losing brothers and boyfriends in shitty, pointless wars. Millions of women have had to raise children on thier own, for one reason or another and had to work, to boot. So the boomers work 80 hours a week for a SUV and to send their kids to 80 million camps, soccer fields, and lessons, using equipment made by mothers in Asia working 80 hours a week to keep their kids fed. Somehow, I don't think it's all that unique or fascinating. It fucking bloody sucks. From one generation to another, right back at 'cha. That's right, I'm talkin' bout my generation.

By adriennelibrarian at 9:08 PM

Tuesday, August 23, 2005 at 11:29 AM

Light and Lack Thereof

Today is Tuesday. Today is the day I work in a computer lab, making sure people are not viewing porn. Or I help them use email, save pictures of boyfriends in Iraq to disk, or print whatever the hell it is they're trying to get off the net. There aren't any windows in this place, though you do get some second hand light from doors that open into this hall. Yeah, we've got six computers, not in a room, but in a hall approximately 12 feet wide. Oh yes, we is very cozy here. Anyway, Western New York is under a thick layer of grey at the moment, so even the secondhand light is very dim and dreary. The place is lit by two over head lights. I hate overhead lights. Generally, I cannot think of a more depressing way of lighting a place. Perhaps it's just the personal associations I have with this method of lighting and the numerous college apartments I have visited for parties and so forth. There was one place I hung out at that had been dubbed "Purgatory" by the crowed that hung out there, which kind of explains it all. Naked bulbs suspended from the ceiling probably is the sort of lighting you find in Purgatory. Or, maybe Hell has the naked bulbs and Purgatory gets globes to go over them. (Hey Shaw, maybe the Howland common room is one of the levels of Purgatory Dante never got to.) I suppose the overheads are preferrable to the artificially chipper violet brightness of flourescents. That is if all bulbs are working -- which they somehow never are, in which case they offer their own unique variety of depressing atmosphere. Only five more hours to go and I can be immersed in fresh air and real light.

By adriennelibrarian at 11:29 AM

Tuesday, August 16, 2005 at 12:17 PM

Bummer....

When I was a student, (it is so nice to be able to say that in the past tense), I was webmaster for this student organization. Mostly all I did was change the dates for meetings and stuff. But, my crowning achievement was putting together a "survival guide" for first semester students to find thier way around this huge campus, which, being built in the early 1970's was specifically designed to discourage students from meeting en masse and taking over administration buildings and making the university go to the trouble of calling in the National Guard, but I digress. At any rate, I checked my school email for the hell of it, (that address is still up on the site because they never got around to finding a new webmaster), and I found a message from a new student providing feedback about this page. One of the things I had done was to solicit advice from other students about the campus and our particular program. And these I slapped up there, with only minor editing for tense, spelling, etc. Apparently this student had a problem with some of the advice given, saying that it was too negative, a real "bummer" and not particularly inspiring to new students. Couldn't it just be said in a more positive way?
I didn't really know how to respond. At heart, I am a disgusting optimist. I tend to focus either only on the good in situations, or to overlook and diminish the negative. And I love being a librarian. I love my job. I love the profession. But . . . I think there is a difference between being an optimist and living in a fantasy world of Care Bears and rainbows. I regret to report there are a lot of library students out there who think that being with books all day will be wonderful, and helping the public will be wonderful, and making and following rules will be wonderful. (I know this last one sounds weird, but I have observed behavior that would support such an assertion.) The truth is, I do not spend a lot of time reading books because I am reading reviews, meeting minutes, developing programs, etc. Another shocking truth is that working with the public is not always wonderful. Sometimes it is just plain weird. A few weeks ago, an older gentleman wanted to renew a book. As I was scanning his card, he took his hearing aids out, put them on the counter, changed the batteries, and then handed me the dead ones as a "gift." Imagine my joy. Anyway, I am all for encouraging people, but to completely deny that there are some aspects of the job that are not exactly ideal is first of all dishonest. Secondly, it would imply that there is nothing to be improved, thus proving oneself to be a self-satisfied prig. But apparently, people want to live by these sorts of lies. When you hear horror stories of mean librarians, maybe it's becuase they bought into the "wonderful" lies, got a taste of the real world, were unable to reconcile the experience to said lie, became bitter, and made the rest of us look bad. Even roses are not entirely removed from fertilizer.

By adriennelibrarian at 12:17 PM

Thursday, August 11, 2005 at 10:24 AM

Typical Blog Rant OR Bruce, Say It Ain't So!

My heart sunk last night as I checked out Bruce Campbell's website and discovered to my horror that he will not be coming to Buffalo for a book signing, as was promised only a month ago. I adore Bruce Campbell. Maybe it's the chin. Maybe it's the way he renders even the cheesiest of movies palatable by not taking them or himself seriously. But mostly it's his stellar performance in Evil Dead II that stole my heart away. The way he could make a ridiculous situation believeable (that of having his own right hand turn evil on him), is nothing short of genius. At any rate, I was certain that meeting him and having him sign my copy of Make Love the Bruce Campbell Way would be the highlight of my September. I was going to distinguish myself from all the other Bruce Campbell fans by wearing my Bubba Ho-Tep t-shirt. *sigh* O, cruel world! Life is so unfair!

By adriennelibrarian at 10:24 AM

Wednesday, August 10, 2005 at 11:35 AM

Trivial Announcement

No, I have not forgotten about the blog, nor have I given up on it. I just haven't been inspired lately by anything I think perfect strangers would be even remotely interested in.

By adriennelibrarian at 11:35 AM

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