What with one thing and another, getting this space looking functional again seemed like an insurmountable task. I couldn’t even make myself find a new base theme that didn’t have that awful, huge, contextless, ever-changing image. And I certainly couldn’t write here while that image was staring me in the face.
But then Steve Lawson swooped in and did all the heavy lifting (and nearly all of the light lifting, too), and now my blog is looking like my blog again. Thank you, Steve!
I recently got a notice that I had a book waiting for me at the circulation desk. Thrilled, I raced over there having completely forgotten a) that I had put a book on hold months ago, and b) anything about said book. What fun! What an adventure!
After having had my library card scanned and the book desensitized, I realized that there’s a downside to placing a hold on a book that’s so popular that a million other people had placed a hold before you and 85 million people had placed a hold on after me.
I got hacked. I’ll have to basically rebuild things, and I’m pretty busy right now at work so I’m not sure how quickly it’ll all get put back to rights. But I’m working on it.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the kind of writing I enjoy, that I strive for, that I aspire to.
I love writing that sounds like exactly the words you would have chosen if you’d thought of it. Simple and clean. I love it when there’s an underlying coherence to the language — a rhythm, a lilt, a metaphor. Nothing that bashes you over the head, but there if you look for it.
Recently, as NPR cajoled me into wakefulness one morning, I heard an interview with Tina Brown talking about what makes a good columnist and these two quotes jumped out at me:
“Columnists speak in a voice readers understand — their own, but just a bit better.” (Quoting the introduction to Deadline Artists, edited by Jesse Angelo, Errol Louis and John Avlon)
“It’s really about how they think and their ability to empathize in a unique and interpretive way, in a sense, both with their readers and the culture,” Brown says. “You really want to feel that the writer is both absolutely in tune with what’s happening in the culture but also has a kind of counterintuitive response to it.”
This is what I like best about my favorite bloggers’ writing. This is even what I like in those few formally published articles that I’ve enjoyed not only for content but also for style. In fact, this is what I enjoy most in fiction, as well. Basically, this is the kind of writing I love.
Unsurprisingly, a lot of my friends have been talking about the dismantling of the People’s Library at Occupy Wall Street, and it’s got me thinking about why the protesters set up the library and why people care so much that it’s gone. And why tiny towns have libraries, and why universities are judged on their libraries, and why tweed-coated English gentlemen built private libraries far larger than they could read through in a lifetime.
For lending libraries, of course there’s an economic benefit to the community that comes from sharing books. And I imagine that this was a core benefit to the People’s Library, too. It’s easy to see how the protesters would have wanted to carry out simple acts of sharing with all who were in want.
I think there’s also a nice metaphor of cultural exchange that happens with lending libraries. Ideally, more than one person will have read each book, and that means that those people will have experiences in common to discuss and build upon.
I think a library, any kind of library, is also a statement about belonging and longevity. “We are here,” they help us say, “and we plan to be here for a while.” And it’s not just belonging and longevity, but also a statement about progress. “We know things,” they help us say, “and we will continue to learn new things and add those things to this collection.”
I have been having a hard time feeling outrage about the dismantling of the People’s Library, but maybe it is in part because I have been thinking of it as a collection of books in a tent. Maybe it was more than that.