There’s no reading in Fayette County!
August 1, 2008, 10:08 am
Filed under: Books, Library | Tags: , , ,

I am from a book-worm family. My father spent his early years getting into trouble because his mother wouldn’t teach him to read. In her defense, the theory in the 40’s (yes, my dad is that old) was that only teachers were qualified to teach anything, and parents would screw it up. So, she didn’t teach him to read. She did send him to school a year early to get him out of her hair. You know, because he did things like vacuum the water out of the toilet, and set the stove on fire.

When he did learn how to read, he never stopped. When I was little, he would read poetry to me at night. When I learned how to read, I practiced by reading poetry to him.

Shortly after that, I began reading the newspaper in the morning. He’s regretted teaching me how to read ever since.

I was an English major in college because I had room for an extra major. I wanted to take classes where I would read novels. English classes fit that bill. I am one third of a librarian as of today.

You might say that books are an integral part of my life.

So it astonished me to hear this story from Bear’s parents:

They went camping near Confluence, Fayette County last summer. We’re all going camping there this weekend, actually. There’s a pretty lake, nice campgrounds, fun stuff. His aunt and uncle were there, as well, and his uncle ran out of reading material. They decided to head into town to get some supplies and see if he could find a bookstore of some sort.

They didn’t see any, so they stopped in another store and asked where they might find some books.

The girl working at the counter said, mystified, “Books? Why would you want books?”

The closest they found was a shelf of Jesus books at the local grocery store. Bear’s uncle had to do without books for the rest of the trip.

I was astonished to hear this. I discussed it with Dan, who didn’t believe it was possible either. So, we did a google map search looking for the nearest libraries to Confluence. These people are poor, because it’s Fayette County, so free books would be best.

Confluence has the arrow. The nearest bookstores are in Uniontown, Connellsville and Somerset.

41 minutes to Uniontown!

31 minutes to Somerset!

Let’s look for bookstores, now.

My commentary about the names might be hard to read. I said “Really?” to Accident, I laughed at Normalville, and I questioned Elk Lick and Upper Turkeyfoot.

Really? Upper Turkeyfoot? Wouldn’t that be Turkey Ankle? Is there a Lower Turkeyfoot? What is a turkeyfoot? Why are you naming things after them? WHAT IS WRONG WITH THIS PART OF THE STATE.

I know, I know, I’m being judgmental. I grew up just past the Philly suburbs in a populated area. I moved to Pittsburgh. I work in a library system that has over 5 million volumes, and I have the entire Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh at my fingertips. I am from a different world, you might say, than the folks of Fayette County.

BUT MY GOD. These people have to drive at least a half hour to get to a library or a bookstore. No wonder that girl was mystified as to why someone would want to read.

We’re leaving to go there this afternoon. If I don’t return, it’s because I was captured and punished for my insolence of bringing reading material to the Anti-Book Bubble. Flagellation ensued.

Or the bugs ate me. One or the other.


Gone with the Wind
April 21, 2008, 12:33 pm
Filed under: Books | Tags: , , ,

Something you might need to understand about me is my weakness for historical fiction. Blame my father. It’s all his fault.

Specifically, I have a weakness for Gone with the Wind. THAT particular weakness is my mother’s. My dad likes history, my mom likes GWTW. So, blame my parents! That works! This is something I’ll be able to complain about BOTH of them in therapy. I know, I know, I should be ashamed of myself. It degrades black people, talks up slavery like it’s good, and forgives the assholes who kept slaves in the first place. It is a blatant antebellum-sympathetic, nauseating movie/book.

But I love it. I can’t help it. Many of the greatest lines in the history of movies and books come from GWTW: “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” is the best eff-you ever. When Mammy yells at Scarlett for going down to take her sister’s beau, and she says, “You know what trouble I’s talkin’ ’bout. Mr. Ashley be comin’ to Atlanta when he get’s his leave, and you sattin’ there waitin’ for him, just like a spider,” the way she says “JUST LIKE A SPIDER” gets me every time. When Prissy came back without a doctor during the Burning of Atlanta, and Miss Mellie was in labor, and Prissy screams in her squeal, “But Miss Scarlett! I ain’t never birthed no babies before!” Love it!. And how can you forget, “Oh, Ashley, ASHLEY!” And my all time favorite, with the sweeping sunset, and Scarlett’s silhouette holding a carrot, saying, “With God as my witness, I’ll never go hungry again!”

What can I say? I have a weakness. I love the movie. I watch it at least once a year, and I have the whole thing memorized. I’ve read the book more times than I can count. But again, it’s my mom’s fault. She got me hooked from an early age. She’s read the book around 11 times now. She made me watch the movie with her!

We’ll never know if Margaret Mitchell was truly a literary talent, or if GWTW was just a fluke, as she died not long after it was published and never wrote anything else. It was turned into a fantastic movie, shot entirely on set in 1939 (impressive, considering how many things burned and how many outdoor scenes there were.)

I made Bear watch the movie with me last year. I don’t think he’ll ever forgive me.

With all this in mind, I found a rewriting of the story, from Rhett Butler’s perspective, Rhett Butler’s People, by Donald McCaig. I’m sure it will be atrocious. Most modern retellings of stories are, especially if they’re mass-marketed. Unless they take a decidedly unique turn for a broad, classic genre, and are written by a truly talented author (Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian is a fantastic adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. But this is not comparable because Dracula inspired a wealth of vampire stuff, so it’s more of a new spin on a well-loved motif rather than a true retelling. Also, it was fantastic. Kostova is a fantastic author. Highly recommended). The sequel to Gone With The Wind, Scarlett, by Alexandra Ripley, was awful. Rhett and Scarlett got together at the end! Totally defeats the purpose of the book! IT’S A TRAGEDY, LIKE THE ENTIRE ANTEBELLUM AND DEATH OF THE DEEP SOUTH WAS. They couldn’t be together, just like the South couldn’t win! They also went to Ireland? It was weird. I didn’t approve.

However, despite knowing it will be atrocious (who thought of that name? What does that even mean?), I got it from the library anyways, for a few reasons.

1. It was free. From the library. No sweat off my bank account.

2. I have to read all things related to Gone With The Wind, due to the obsession.


4. I think it will be entertaining, in terms of its atrociousness.

I might be proven wrong. I will keep you updated.

Library Nubbin
April 8, 2008, 8:47 am
Filed under: Books, Library | Tags: , , ,

One of the joys of working in the library is the fact that people assume that because I am behind the desk, I can’t actually hear what they are saying. I overhear pretty awesome/terrible things because of that.

One of the other joys of working in the library is that oddly enough, despite being at a major academic institution, a research university, there are some IMPRESSIVELY STUPID PEOPLE here. It never fails to amaze me.

A few weeks ago…

Patron: I need a book from reserve. I don’t know the call number, or the title, or the author. I’m not in the class, so I don’t know the prof’s name or the class name. I just know it’s blue.

*stunned silence*

Katrina: I’m sorry, we don’t organize the library by color.

…and then yesterday….

Patron: Will you look up this book for me and tell me what color it is so I can find it?

*stunned silence*

Katrina: I’m sorry, we don’t organize the library by color.

Really! We don’t! I know it’s a surprise, but we have ALOT of books here. In fact, the ULS webpage says, ” The University of Pittsburgh libraries and collections provide a wealth of information and services to the faculty, students, staff, administrators, and researchers of the University. In fiscal year 2004, the University’s collections totaled more than 4.6 million volumes and more than 45,000 periodical subscriptions. Of this total, the ULS has approximately 3.9 million volumes. Our collection of electronic resources is growing rapidly and now includes thousands of databases, over 25,000 electronic journal titles, and over 170,000 electronic books.” Impressive, right? I know! But when you only ever see the first floor of Hillman library, where our stacks are short and spread-apart, surrounded by lots of tables and chairs for your studying, you might have the misunderstanding that those are our ONLY BOOKS.

There are 7 distinct colors (Roy G. Biv, anyone?). Including white, brown, black, and gray, you get 11. By sheer chance, that means that there are probably somewhere around 460,000 books of any given color. Do you really want to go up into the stacks and pick up 460,000 books before you find the correct one? I didn’t think so. GO GET THE DAMN CALL NUMBER.

(I love my job, I love my job, I love my job…)

Alice: A Review
March 5, 2008, 10:20 am
Filed under: Books | Tags: ,

Alice: Alice Roosevelt Longworth, From White House Princess to Washington Power Broker, by Stacy Cordery.


Alice Roosevelt Longworth was the eldest daughter of the great Theodore Roosevelt, the spawn of his first marriage. Her life began with two deaths: that of her mother and her grandmother 2 days after her own birth. Theodore never really recovered from this, even though he remarried and reproduced a bunch more times.

Alice was the Washington Bad Girl before it was cool, and while it was still classy. She wore big hats while shocking her father, instead of midriff baring tops and cheap beer. She was an uncontested beauty that enthralled the country. In response to her teenage rebellion, her father reportedly said, “I can be president of the United States — or — I can attend to Alice. I cannot possibly do both!”

Her father was an imposing man in Washington,  but only for a short time. He died at age 60, in 1919, while his daughter lived on in Washington. She eventually received the nickname of “The Other Washington Monument”. Her salon was the most efficient and entertaining way of getting into the Washington scene. If you wanted to be involved in government, you needed to pay homage to Alice, and more importantly, you needed to get her to like you. She even attended Tricia Nixon’s wedding at the White House at age 87, 65 years after her own in the same place.

She was a a bright, well-read, sharp-tongued woman. Her favorite saying was on a pillow: “If you haven’t got anything nice to say, come sit here by me.” A remarkable life of a remarkable woman, and an amazing overview of politics and culture over the course of the 20th century, this book is an informative but pleasurable read. Highly recommended for history/political buffs, as well as for anyone looking for a good laugh.

Oh Noetry!
January 30, 2008, 9:30 am
Filed under: Books, Library | Tags: , ,

When I was a little girl, Papa! read me poetry at night instead of bedtime stories. He’s the major reader in the family: Mama! reads, but not quite to the extent that my dad does. He is the reason I have such a deep attachment to books. You know, such a deep attachment that I had to bring most of my collection to college with me, because the idea of not having them near me was too devastating. Even though my college has a massively huge library system, that probably has all of my books and then some. But no, I needed MY books with me AT ALL TIMES. This will never change. Hence, the secondary English lit major and the librarianing. Of course, when I learned to read and discovered the newspaper in the morning, he would grumble about”who thought it was a good idea to teach you to read?” when I would heist the front page before he got to it. When I got good at reading, we switched, and I would read poetry outloud to him.

Because of this, I love poetry. As much as I love novels, poetry makes me warm and fuzzy. Some of my favorites include e e cummings, W. B. Yeats, Seamus Heaney, Oscar Wilde, T. S. Eliot. I love to read them outloud to this day. I love the way the words sound together, how they feel in my mouth. I could read the same poem over and over again, and never get tired of it. I am a huge nerd. Feel free to mock me.

When working at the library, sometimes I come across books that interest me, and immediately after discharging them, I will check them out for myself. One can imagine how many books I have sitting at home now. This happened on Monday, when I saw a collection of poems that I wanted to look through.

Later that night, Bear was putting me to bed, and I offered to read some of the poems out loud to him. He likes listening to me read poetry. Or at least, he knows how much I love reading poetry aloud, and sharing poems I love with the people I love. He humors me a lot. He is a good Bear.

I read a few, some about love, some about life, some about excrement. After a handful, he said, “These are good poems! What’s the book called?”

And I swear, you can’t make this shit up, I had to answer, “‘Good Poems.'”