Skip to main content

Book 43 of 52: Quiet, Please: Dispatches from a Public Librarian by Scott Douglas

This book could have been funny. If you've ever spent a lot of time in a library, you know that they can be strange places with even stranger patrons. That's why I was psyched to start reading this book.

Unfortunately, Quiet, Please: Dispatches from a Public Librarianwasn't exactly funny, even though it tries. Sure, there were a few humorous patches about Douglas' life as a librarian in Anaheim, and I did appreciate the chance of getting behind the counter with someone who's about my age. But the writing is what sapped the life out of the story. That, and the footnotes.

It's a classic case of showing versus telling, something that I read the best description about in Follow the Story: How to Write Successful Nonfiction, book 27 of 52.

An example: "Pearl arrived next. She was fifty by dressed thirty, had messy brown hair, and walked with a skip in her step." Ok, but how was she fifty and dressing thirty? What exactly did she wear? And "skip in her step"? Sure, it evokes a youthful image, but it's a flat cliche.

Douglas spends a lot of time describing the crazy people who come into the library, but he never quite give a sharp image of any of them so that most of the book turns into an endless string of Douglas talking about one crazy person or another.

Another example: "Some people are justifiably crazy. They do something stupid, but they have a reason, no matter how stupid that reason is. Some people are just plain crazy. They have no reason for their insanity." And the point is?

It's also littered with footnotes -- sometimes three on two back to back pages. And some of them seem pretty pointless. Example: "Sometimes a kid would come up" Footnote: "It was usually a boy, a fact you don't need to know." You're right. I didn't need to know that.

It's a book that tries too hard to make you laugh. It also lacks a timeline. There's a loose outline of a plot -- moving from an old library to a new library then back to the rebuilt old library -- but it disappears through most of the second half of the book to create a wandering series of "my adventures" at the library. Too bad. I always wanted to know what life at a library was like.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Book 12 of 52: Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi

Marjane Satrapi is an author and graphic novelist who grew up in Iran and, as a tween and teen, lived in the country through  the Iranian Revolution before her parents sent her to Europe for school, and for her safety.  As an adult, she wrote Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood ,  a nonfiction graphic novel, originally in French. I read the English translation, which was published in 2003, three years after the original. It was a critical success, won a slew of awards, and became a movie . I haven't read the sequel, Persepolis 2 , but I hope to (you can also  buy them in a set . I found Persepolis  in a Little Free Library, or I'd have bought them combined).  In the tradition of Art Spiegelman's  Maus , which is about the author's father talking to him about the Holocaust,  Persepolis  is a memoir of trauma told through a mix of images and words that when combined, combust into powerful, beautiful and soul cracking art.  For example, Satrapi portrays the 1978 Cinema R

Book 11 of 52: The World Without Us by Alan Weisman

In my travels, I've accumulated photos in what I call the "Plants Where They Shouldn't Be" series. They're of weeds, flowers and trees growing in places that look uncomfortable: poking out of lava that's OK to walk on but warm enough to generate steam, growing around a mile marker on the road, sprouting on the back of a parking sign - that kind of thing. On the cheesy side, they're reminders that we can flourish in the most unlikely circumstances. On a more realistic end, they show that humans are constantly battling back nature, and that someday we'll probably lose the fight. I thought about those photos when I read  book 8 of 52 Station Eleven  (and watched  the HBO Max adaptation ), which show a world without 99.99 percent of our current human population. The story focuses on people, of course, but set them in a world where the things humans have created - electricity, internet, buildings, bridges, roads - are being taken back by nature. A Jersey Sh

Book 16 of 52: Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics by Dan Harris

I have generalized anxiety disorder and, on and off, dance with depression. I have done a lot of work to be able to not just function but live a full and rewarding life, including but not limited to therapy, medication, and running for hours at a time . However, in early 2020, COVID broke over those dams. I write about science and medicine, and I had panic attacks while interviewing doctors. That early March, I screamed at my dad to not get on a plane to Texas, and for my mom give up her tickets for the Philadelphia Flower Show - and then catastrophized when they did those things anyway. My friend said that I was a Casandra: shouting about the terror to come with no one believing me, until it was already here. In a gasp to find some relief, I tried meditation, first through the Calm app , and then Dan Harris book, 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress without Losing My Edge, and Found Self Help that Actually Works   (quite a subtitle). I would sit at my dining r