Teaser Tuesday!

I got this idea from my good friend, who writes a blog called Fickle Words; she got the idea from MizB at Should Be Reading. The premise is cute, kind of like a meme, and definitely an interesting way to make book recommendations -- so I hope to make this my own Dog-Eared regular.

Here's how to play:
  1. Grab your current read.*
  2. Let the book fall open to a random page.
  3. Share with us two (2)** "teaser" sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
  4. You also need to share the title of the book that you're getting your teaser from...that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you've given!
  5. Please avoid spoilers!
*To keep this feature periodic, I will be using both teasers from current reads, and from books I've read before, but haven't discussed on this blog.

**I will probably cheat sometimes, depending on how long it takes to finish the thought within those line parameters. Teasers should still make sense!

Here's a teaser from my current read, The Forever War, by Dexter Filkins:

"In an odd but real way, my five-mile runs up Abu Nawas Street made me wonder what the war in Iraq was about. All day long reporting in the country I encountered hostility and chaos, which was intense and growing and real. And yet at night when I hit the streets, in the fall of 2003, I could not find a trace of it."

Wow, I don't know about you, but if I wasn't already reading it, I'd be totally roped in.

Do this on your own blog, and leave a link in the comments here...or just leave a comment with your own teasers and titles! Interactive and educational. Ta da!

Patience is a Virtue, Unless You're Waiting Around for a Blog Post

Just a quick note to prepare you:

1) I'm going on vacation starting Thursday night, so the posts here will become scarce, if they pop up at all, until Oct. 12 or 13 when I drag myself back from the beach.

2) I'll be honest. Now that it's Monday night, and the weekend was much busier than I realized it could be, and taking into consideration the fact that I'm still sitting here writing/reading blog posts, doing laundry, making dinner and cleaning house instead of reading my book, I'm going to make an educated guess and say that I won't be finished with The Forever War by tomorrow or Wednesday, as originally scheduled. The good news is our vacation spot should have free wireless Internet access, so when I do finish it, I'll be able update you right away instead of keeping you waiting...Then again, I don't want to make any promises, because we all know vacations are vacations and sometimes it's just so nice not to have to deal with a computer screen.

Wow, I turned out to be a pretty disappointing blog host. Never fear. I shall return relaxed, refreshed, rested, and ready to write! I have lots of ideas piling up on my desktop, and I can't wait to finally take some time to develop them. Don't forget to pick up a banned book this week! Keep on truckin'.

More on Banned Books Week

I just wanted to draw a little more attention to the response letter I linked to in my previous post. It's from July of 2008, but still very relevant. After giving it a thorough read, I think it's important to give the letter its due, as it neutrally addresses several key points about this week's purpose. The library director from Douglas County, CO really did a fantastic job putting together his argument. It reads logically and professionally. I am also very grateful he addressed every issue the parent brought up. It shows he really does care about his work, and the concerns of his library's patrons.

These two passages especially resonated with me; I think they sort of reiterate what I was trying to say in my previous post:

"How then, can we claim that the founders would support the restriction of access to a book that really is just about an idea, to be accepted or rejected as you choose? What harm has this book done to anyone? Your seven year old told you, 'Boys are not supposed to marry.' In other words, you have taught her your values, and those values have taken hold. That's what parents are supposed to do, and clearly, exposure to this book, or several, doesn't just overthrow that parental influence. It does, of course, provide evidence that not everybody agrees with each other; but that's true, isn't it?...

"Finally, then, I conclude that 'Uncle Bobby's Wedding' is a children's book, appropriately categorized and shelved in our children's picture book area. I fully appreciate that you, and some of your friends, strongly disagree with its viewpoint. But if the library is doing its job, there are lots of books in our collection that people won't agree with; there are certainly many that I object to. Library collections don't imply endorsement; they imply access to the many different ideas of our culture, which is precisely our purpose in public life."

Happy Banned Books Week, everyone!

Banned Books Week

Today marked the first day of Banned Books Week, a national celebration of the freedom to read. Every year, books are challenged by individuals or groups in an attempt to secure a ban on the material. According to the ALA (American Library Association), a challenge is "an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group"; a banning is "the removal of those materials." It is important to understand that challenges are not just expressions of different points of view. They are courses of action taken against teaching the reading material, and a conscious effort to remove the material from libraries and schools. It is my personal belief that this is a direct encroachment on our freedom of speech as Americans, and on our choice as readers.

Banned Books Week, held every year during the last week of September, is dedicated to raising awareness about the benefits of free access, as well as the harms of censorship. The efforts of teachers, librarians, booksellers, and communities have all come together each year to help prevent bannings, no matter what the material. The cornerstone of BBW is the freedom to express and allow access to ideas (especially ideas in print), no matter how "unorthodox" or "unpopular" those ideas are.

From ALA's web site:

Over the past eight years, American libraries were faced with 3,736 challenges.

  • 1,225 challenges due to “sexually explicit” material;
  • 1,008 challenges due to “offensive language”;
  • 720 challenges due to material deemed “unsuited to age group”;
  • 458 challenges due to “violence”
  • 269 challenges due to “homosexuality”; and

Further, 103 materials were challenged because they were “anti-family,” and an additional 233 were challenged because of their “religious viewpoints.”

1,176 of these challenges (approximately 31%) were in classrooms; 37% were in school libraries; 24% (or 909) took place in public libraries. There were less than 75 challenges to college classes; and only 36 to academic libraries. There are isolated cases of challenges to materials made available in or by prisons, special libraries, community groups, and student groups. The majority of challenges were initiated by parents (almost exactly 51%), while patrons and administrators followed behind (10% and 8% respectively).

I just can't fathom any reason why anyone would go to such lengths to keep books away from the public. The public. People they don't know. My mom wouldn't let me read books with boys and girls on the cover when I was a kid (this amounted to at least half of The Babysitters Club series), but she never told other people's children what was or wasn't good for them. She never once, in front of us, told our teachers how to do their jobs (granted, I guess we were enrolled in Catholic school for the majority of our lives -- essentially, an extenion of our home belief system). Still, she knew she couldn't control every aspect of our lives. I think she definitely wanted to know, and had a right to know, what we were being taught in school, but she knew it wasn't ultimately up to her to decide what information came to us and what was rejected. Instead, it was her role to teach us how to deal with our own perception of that information, and to help us understand our choices. This is not to say she didn't try her darnedest to instill her own values in us. She fought us pretty hard on a lot of things. But she was always so proud of me for loving books, and loving to read, loving to learn, loving to weigh different ideas. She was confident enough in her parenting that she trusted me to make the right decision about my beliefs. She had to be. And she loved books. She wanted my brother and me to become our own person, and she knew that what we read wasn't going to be the one deciding factor in how we turned out.

In fact, I think I turned out pretty good. And I read all the smut I can get my hands on. Like Harry Potter. Loved me some Harry Potter. Or The Golden Compass. Because I always look to the fantasy genre as a solid substitute for church. Or Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. Because I learn some good words in books, and once I learn a word, there's no stopping my mouth from repeating it. Or Captain Underpants. ...Really? Captain Underpants??? COME ON.

For more information on Banned Books Week, including events, please visit www.bannedbooksweek.org, or contact the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom at 1-800-545-2433, ext. 4220, or bbw@ala.org.

(Upon reviewing the most recent lists, I've decided I absolutely HAVE TO HAVE this challenged book. Same-sex guinea pigs? It's like a dream come true! Read the Douglas County, Colorado library director's response here.)

I Did It!

Proof! I did it. I signed up for my very own library card. Luckily, I remembered to bring my utility bill. Cleveland librarians are steadfast bitches. Good reason, I suppose. At least now they know I am responsible enough to rent a place with electricity.

The good news (yes, more good news!): I was able to unload all the books I've been hoarding in my car. The maintenance man there assured me they do not throw away books. If they can't use them, they find a place to donate them. I was so relieved. And I told him I'd be back with more. He looked pretty astounded.

The bad news: I waited until a half hour before my hair appointment to drive to the library, so I did not get a chance to look around and browse and check out books as I'd originally planned. What I did see I was impressed with. The inside is bright and clean, and the walls are painted in nice, crisp colors. I am going to go back tomorrow to see more. (They can't stop me now! I'm a member!) And the smell was so good. I love books.

I wish I had a more exciting story, maybe about all the death-defying feats I had to accomplish in order to get my library card. But aside from the whole prove-where-you-live thing, it was remarkably easy. People should know that. We card holders should make it our duty to spread the power. "Why don't you have a library card, June? It's so easy to get one." Hell, it's easier than walking into Blockbuster and signing up for an account there. Talk about a hassle. And millions of people have Blockbuster accounts. Hey, Blockbuster Accounters -- you can get DVDs at the library, too! AND IT'S FREE. IT'S FREE, DUMBASSES. So why don't you get a library card? I used to be a dumbass like you. But now I have a library card. I have access to books, movies, magazines, newspapers, encyclopedias...you name it! And I PAY NOTHING!!! I AM LIBERATED!!! LIBRARIES RULE!!!

Just an FYI

Fidel Castro's sister, Juanita, is coming out with a book about her brothers. This is of special interest to me because my French teacher in high school was a very proud Cuban woman (can you imagine the effect a Spanish accent has on the French language? Pretty cool. It's like an uber romantic language).

My teacher would always talk about how special her homeland was to her, and how much she hated hated hated Castro for how he chose to run the country. My memory is a bit foggy, but I believe his government was ultimately the reason behind her move to America, and away from her family. Despite everything, though, she loved Cuba so much; and it will be interesting to see the perspective of another Cuban woman, also exiled from her country, regarding the long-time rule of Fidel. I would love to compare the feelings and memories of Juanita to the stories told to us by my proud, Cuban French teacher. I wonder if she would pick up a copy.

Where are All Those Reviews??

I know, I promised haughty opinions and pretentious analyses. Don't worry, I'm about halfway through The Forever War, so it shouldn't be too much longer before you see all that goodness posted all up in here. I need to finish reading it by September 29 or 30, because I want to start a new book before my beach vacation in October. Something a little less...heavy.

To tide you over, here is a story about my favorite literary term:

le mot juste: the right word.

I became fascinated with this expression my sophomore year of college, in a class called "The Lost Generation." We studied the expatriates: people like Sylvia Beach, who helped make salons famous, but we also looked at the authors who were writing from the Left Bank of Paris -- Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald...and most importantly, Ernest Hemingway.

My professor, a Hemingway scholar, would use the term le mot juste at least once a class. "Hemingway was always searching for le mot juste," he'd say.

"He was never satisfied until he found le mot juste."
"Without le mot juste, you can completely miss the meaning, wrong the tone, or smother the attitude of a sentence!"
"Did you know Hemingway wouldn't touch a drop of alcohol while he was writing, because he knew it would distract him from finding le mot juste?"

The guy had an (admirable) obsession.

I took all of his stories to heart. Even if it seemed the Hemingway anecdotes were more tall tale than truth, that class really taught me something about writing. "Advanced Composition" and The Sense of Structure only nurtured the seed that was planted during my hours spent in "The Lost Generation."

Now, whenever I write, I painstakingly read back every sentence, edit them one at a time, to make sure my meaning is clear and accurate. (See, accurate. I went back and forth for 3 minutes on that. I almost used genuine there, but I wanted le mot juste -- the right word. And the meaning does change, doesn't it? Even if it's just in what you feel when you see it.) That is why I'm so passionate about the written word. In my own search for le mot juste, I am finding out so much more about me.

Sidebar: Here's something else kind of fun. I found this URL while looking up things to include in this mot juste post: http://www.etymonline.com

Blogs are Reading, Too!

...and they give you cool stuff sometimes!

My last post mentioned a good old-fashioned Schmutzie contest, and you're in luck, because another giveaway is here! This time we're vying for an 18x24" rolled poster print from DigitalRoom.com. I totally encourage your entering, because not only does Digital Room make their prints using vegetable-based inks, they also recycle all their paper scraps...which we in the book world absolutely love. (Since I do not yet own a Kindle, I'm constantly purchasing its dear paper product counterparts for my own amusement; I try to balance that out by recycling whatever else I can...and definitely by supporting others, like Digital Room, who do the same.)

So sign up! Win! Hurry! She's drawing the champion on September 26!

Having Fun Isn't Hard When You've Got a Library Card

I must admit I'm more of a bookstore geek than a library-goer. (No, it's not because of the coffee.) Lakewood's library has a very beautiful facade, though, so I think this weekend I'll have to finally go exploring and see if the inside is as pretty as the outside. Pretty with good books. How perfect, considering September is National Library Card Sign-up Month. The last time I tried to get a library card in Strongsville, they needed a form of ID with my current address on it. Unfortunately, my driver's license said Cincy, my checks said Dayton, and my gas bills did say Strongsville, but they had the wrong apartment number. It's sad to think I let that stop me. Of course my boyfriend walks in, says he just moved here (liar) and gets a card no problem. I say I just moved here and they want my life story and probably a credit check.

My main dig with libraries has always really been a dig with myself. I am selfish, and I hate returning the books. Especially if they're good books. I also have this awful condition called irresponsibility...usually by the time I've finished a good book, it's in shambles. There is soup splashed on page 149, every 10 pages have dog-ears, and the cover is dingy if not torn or bent. So libraries will be a new thing to get used to.

My mom used to take me to the library all the time as a kid, where I could sit for hours, reading all the picture books; and then we'd take them all home to read again. Sometimes my mom had to put a limit on what we checked out. I wanted them all. Now that I'm all grown up, I still love the children's section best. And I still love the sound of a librarian moving a plastic-jacketed book from one pile to another as she scans the card inside each cover. Swfft...beep!...puhp...Swfft...beep!...puhp. (This may have planted the seeds of my awe for STOMP!) I love studying all the different handwritings on the checkout card. It's like a story inside a story.

Why did I stop going to the library again?

Never fear. September is almost over, but I still have time to take advantage. To solidify the deal, I'll make a pledge -- if I don't come out in October with a new library card, I won't be able to buy another book for 6 months. If you know me, you know how hard that's going to be. I wish I could say I had some legitimate backers, so I could have a contest like Schmutzie here, and give something away as incentive for actually going the distance. But I don't have backers, and I'm pretty sure I don't have readers yet. So I'll have to settle for the next best thing: deprivation.

Anyway, please, join me (and I do mean in spirit if you do not happen to live near me) in getting to know your local library, and the awesomeness that is getting books for free.

And speaking of libraries...props to Arthur throwbacks.

You Knew It Was Coming...

What's a book blog without a list of the author's favorites? In a completely non-exhaustive and unparticular order:
  • Charlotte's Web
  • Children of the River
  • The Outsiders
  • Blonde
  • Gone with the Wind
  • To Full Term: A Mother's Triumph Over Miscarriage
  • The Sense of Structure: Writing From a Reader's Perspective
  • Katharine Kerr's Deverry series
  • Drop City
  • America's Women: 400 Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates and Heroines
  • The Vagina Monologues
  • Ramona the Pest
  • Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus
  • Le Petit Prince
  • Exiles: The Ruins of Ambrai
  • The Things They Carried
  • If I Die in a Combat Zone
  • Not So Quiet...
  • The Sun Also Rises
And what determines a favorite, you ask?

I'm sort of biased in this area. Sometimes I feel like I've fallen in love with almost every book I've ever finished. The feeling is especially powerful if I did a really good job picking a book to suit my mood. I adore the feeling I get when I've matched up my mood with the mood of the book. It's what I imagine marriage will be like. Here's another list I'm currently using as a scale. Feel free to rate your own books using it. Again, non-exhaustive:
  • A favorite book should wrench your heart, in any direction, if only for 30 seconds.
  • A favorite book should make you laugh out loud.
  • A favorite book should cause you (at times) to take pause in your reading and regroup, because you realize you've been audibly mumbling the most exciting parts to yourself.
  • A favorite book is literally impossible to put down because it's figuratively glued to your hand.
  • A favorite book leaves you feeling satisfied, no matter what the ending.
  • A favorite book is meaningful enough, and surprising enough, for rereads.
  • A favorite book excites you.
  • A favorite book invites you.
  • A favorite book allows you time to breathe.
  • A favorite book leaves you with a new thought.
  • A favorite book earns your respect, it never commands it.
  • Last but not least, a favorite book just makes you feel happy.
I suggest we all take some time to pull out the ol' favorites, leaf through them, tell them you love them. Ahem, well. Happy reading, everyone!

You Couldn't Give Those Away If You Tried

Just returned from a rather disheartening visit to Half Price Books. Here's the story.

Back in May, my company put together a book fair to benefit a reputable Cleveland-area charity. We had everyone in the building donate their gently used books, which we then collected, sorted, and set up for sale in the lobby. Everyone could then browse the donations and make new purchases. Every dollar we earned went to the charity, and we planned on donating all of the leftover books to their library and end-of-year yard sale.

I was so proud to say we collected over 1,358 books at the end of two weeks, and by the end of the sale, we'd made over $651 for the charity.

Unfortunately, we ran into a small problem none of us had really counted on -- but was probably, quite honestly, something we should have spent more time researching. After delivering many of the leftover books to the charity's library, they finally got overwhelmed. I was told a few weeks ago by our company liaison that the charity just couldn't accept any more. Perfectly understandable, as many of the leftovers were novels written for adults, and this is very much a child-friendly organization. Please take note, I am in no way blaming the charity for this mishap. I am just so grateful they took everything they could fit.

But what to do?

I loaded at least 100 books into my car this evening (and left an equal amount in the office), thinking Half Price would be able to turn over some quick cash for at least some of them; I could then send the money as a sort of extended donation. A quick ride and two dolly trips later, I walked out with $23. But that was only for two boxes' worth.

"What do you do with the rest?" I asked the helpful Half Price employees.

"We throw them out."


Throw them out? No! Nonononononono! The lady at Half Price said that oh yes, they get a full Dumpster pickup every other day. It breaks her heart. It breaks mine, too. Especially since the people in my building donated those books expecting to see them either sold or, well, donated. I told Half Price there was no way I was leaving those books with them, and mournfully re-loaded the boxes into my Camry.

So now I have four large stacks of books just hanging out in my backseat. It doesn't bother me that I'm going to have to find another charity to take them. I am just wondering if there is one out there that will take them. The lady at Half Price told me she couldn't accept most of the books because of 1) their condition, and 2) their popularity. Apparently, they get large influxes of popular books because so many people buy them new, then sell them when they're finished; but then those books pile up because for whatever reason no one wants to buy them used -- already outdated, I guess. I didn't think charities were supposed to be picky about that sort of thing, but now I'm not so sure. While I was making various, pleading calls today, I got the same song and dance from a lady at a hospice resale shop. She told me the books had to be in good condition, and sellable. (Well, of course they're sellable. I sold them during the book fair. Screw it, I'll just have my own yard sale and fork the money over to the original charity.)

So that's it. That's the end of my long, disheartening story. But maybe you locals can help me out: Where do I send my beloved books now? (I'm trying the public library tomorrow.)

I'd Like to Check Out These Articles I Saw on My eReader, Please

Ok, 2 pints of Hefeweizen is not the way to start off this blog; but no one ever said I'm not dedicated.

Have any of you seen this? Cushing Academy is indeed ushering in a brave new world. I never thought there could ever, ever be a library without books. A library without books? Isn't that an oxymoron?

Granted, when I was in college, I never really did the whole Dewey Decimal thing. I didn't much care for browsing through the shelves; deciphering the numbered codes posted in the aisles; scanning for an author; hoping the book I'd written down based on its title alone had at least a little something to do with my research prompt...and also hoping I was lucky enough to find a book that hadn't already been checked out, or completely removed due to its lack of relevance. I second-guessed myself quite often. Someone already has my topic. Someone will be using the quotes I was going to use. I'm so unoriginal! So uninspired! I've got to pick a new theme!

I was a huge fan of JSTOR. The biggest. If anyone ever asked me where I'd gotten my research -- yeah, it was JSTOR. All online. All the time. Easy. Convenient. Printable. (Get this -- because even though I preferred researching online, I absolutely hated reading anything via computer. The screen makes my eyes uncomfortable. Sort of ironic for a blogger, right?)

So how do I feel about a library -- I mean a learning center -- without books? It's hard to say. On the one hand, it's pretty cool that the library will be able to provide their students with millions of books and materials, instead of the 20,000 or so they'd originally had physically stocked for use.

On the other hand...

Where's the smell? Where's the palpability? Where's the clear indication that you did read those pages, you did mark them up (because you're a rebel), and you did take the time to actually dedicate yourself and check something out, rather than just download and skim? (Oh, don't think you won't be skimming with that new Sony eReader, or that fancy new PC. I see those instant messaging sessions. I see you check your email while you halfheartedly scrawl a note about a sentence you only halfway understand.) Will a laptop-friendly studdy carrel really keep you isolated enough to write a research paper? I don't think so. I thought that was the point of the Internet: connectivity to everything, everyone, everywhere. There is no solitude, and no room for independent research. You may be sitting alone, but sitting alone with a book, one author, is much, much different than sitting alone with the Internet, with millions of people's opinions at your fingertips. Beneficiary or disadvantageous? I suppose it's all dependent on the student. Personally, I don't think I'd know where to go in a library without books. I'd get lost. What, do I just sit down? Then what? Just start?

The thing that twisted me the most on this issue is the fact that Cushing Academy is replacing their reference desk with a $50,000 coffee shop, which includes a $12,000 cappuccino machine.


You're replacing (I assume) good, hard-working, helpful librarians with coffee? Coffee?? Oh, I get it. I get it. Because coffee is helpful, too. Right. Where was coffee when I needed to find Martin Buber's I and Thou? Who do I ask when I'm having trouble figuring out how to run the technology that's supposedly changing my research for the better? Man, that pumpkin latte sure had some great insight into Romantic poetry. I got an 'A' in that class, thanks to coffee.

Growing up around books, it's all sort of hard to stomach (the transition, not the caffeine...or can it be both?). I suppose the generations born after me will find it easier to utilize this sort of drastic change; they'll feel more comfortable in this surrounding. But it is drastic, right? I can't be alone in feeling this way. Are we in desperate times, needing desperate measures? And are we so enamored with the future, we're forgetting the best of the past?

Page 1: Welcome!

Welcome to my book blog! In this space, I plan on writing reviews (mostly my own, but possibly putting up others' as well); posting links to awesome bookish things around the city of Cleveland, where I currently reside; making lists; catching up on the roller coaster that is paperless technology; and just taking the time to celebrate the wonders of reading. I'll warn you right off the bat, my reviews will most likely not stay with current trends, because the books I tend to pick up are usually a few years dated and in paperback already. I love paperback.

About me:

I've been in love with reading for as long as I can remember. Before I was very good at it, I would memorize the books my mom read to me and act out every character's part. Once I began reading on my own, it was hard to stop. I always carried a book with me, a habit that has followed me to the present. I graduated high school thinking I should become a a novel editor. That dream stayed with me during my time at the University of Dayton, where I majored in English. The most useful information I ever learned about writing was at UD, where we read The Sense of Structure by George Gopen. From then on, I vowed to always remember my reader, and that writing is first and foremost a form of communication. Three months after I graduated college, I began work with a newswire service*, formatting and proofreading news releases before they get sent out to the media. While it's not exactly the editing I had in mind, I am very happy in my work and love the business I'm in. It's oftentimes demanding work, and I'll admit sometimes I just want to come home and veg in front of the TV rather than delve deep into some good writing. But it's pretty cool to see how the news comes to the world, starting from scratch.

So now I've created this blog! I hope it will help me to stay enamored with the written word, and I hope to spread my adoration of reading to the masses. Ok, well, I guess what I'm seriously hoping for is that the books and info on this blog will help spark some great communication and discussion. Thanks for reading!

(Speaking of reading, I've recently started The Forever War by Dexter Filkins; when you're looking for the first review, that will be it.)

*Needless to say, any comments, opinions, or statements expressed in this blog are solely those of the author, and are in no way affiliated with the author's employer or its parent company.