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Sunday, September 28, 2008

i heart libraries

I Heart Libraries. And it always confounds me that people aren’t breaking down their doors, tripping over themselves to get at all that filthy lucre: novels, DVDs, CDs, newspapers and magazines, and audiobooks. Perhaps our libraries are so underutilized because Americans are so conditioned to shop, to buy, to populate their living spaces with things they own but rarely use. And that’s fine. Who I am to begrudge a nation its unsustainable and self-defeating consumption habits?

Long post short, I went to the local library here in Portland, Maine yesterday. I will be in town for the next 14 weeks so I need a card. As it turned out, the library was having a huge book sale in their basement: 5 cents for a paperback, 10 cents for the hard stuff. Lucky me.

The above image (photographed by Claire Houston) shows what what I bought. (Total cost: $2.20.)

The following is (1) a quick description of the various books, audiobooks, CDs, and DVDs pictured, and (2) the rational for my individual purchases.

Let us begin. Moving from left to right, and top to bottom.

Hooking Up Tom Wolfe

Hunter S. Thompson is dead. Ditto goes for Norman Mailer. And while this reality makes it hard for me to get out of bed some mornings, it might give Tom Wolfe a strange sort of comfort—as he’s now the reigning dean of new journalism. In Hooking Up, Wolfe gives us a good batch of essays and short stories and, I think, a novella.

Rufus Wainwright
by Rufus Wainwright. This is his 1998 self-titled debut album. I have never heard any of it. I am hoping this is an overlooked gem.

Dreamgirls: Music From The Motion Picture [2-CD Deluxe Edition]

This movie was one of the best and worst films I have ever watched. Fact: The music was transcendent (e.g., "Listen," and "I am telling you, I am not leaving"). Jennifer Hudson and Eddie Murphy deliver some of the best performances in recent memory. (I hate Eddie Murphy beyond description, but I have to admit he transfigures himself for this role, and I will watch the film over and over again simply to see him sing his "Jimmy's Rap.")

The History of the English Language (Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3) by Seth Lerer

How could I pass up this “course”? Twelve cassettes. One day at a time, Ari. One day at a time.

Here’s a blurb.

“Learn incredible and insightful facts on the language we use everyday of our lives from Professor Seth Lerer of Stanford University. This course is designed to touch on every corner of the English language, from its distant origins to different dialects spoken today.

This course is designed to help you appreciate and understand why this language has evolved the way it did. You will learn why we speak the way we do today, how to properly use a dictionary, what the difference is between the three major periods of English, how famous authors apply the language as their most important tool in their writing, how to distinguish between dialects of the language that we use today in America, and much more.”

Making It Big on Little Deals by John Schaub

Given the subprime chicanery and all things 700 billion bailout, I thought this book would make a nice historical artifact. By the way, I plan on reading it…for the archeological benefits.

Famous Financial Fiascos by John Train

My blindside is economics. Maybe this book will help.

Here’s a blurb about this book I found online.

“A classic study on different ways not to succeed. Everything from Mr. Ponzi, Tulipomania, the Kuwait Stock Exchange Explosion, Bernie Cornfeld, Ivan Krueger, and others. Shows the confusion of purpose, overgenerous investments, mistakes in timing and many other ways where investors have gone wrong. As Parkinson says, “It is better to learn from a book than to learn in a bankruptcy court.”

The Higher Self by Deepak Chopra

This two-cassette audiobook is organized around helping you discover and unearth your true self, the self that is boundless and unfettered by fear or judgment. I like that idea. And I’m open to giving it a shot. If anyone is in need of self-improvement, it’s me.

John Lennon Anthology

I was six when John Lennon was assassinated and I can remember exactly where I was when the news broke across the TV screen. I knew something was gone. And I have spent a lot of my life trying to get that something back. I’ve read a few different biographies on Lennon, watched some amazing documentaries (The U.S. vs. John Lennon is one of the best films ever made), and been an inveterate fan of his music and ethos. On the 25th anniversary of his assignation, I went to his Imagine monument in Central Park and held a candle and cried and sang and held hands with strangers. The vigil lasted all night. I left somewhere around midnight. I walked home, through the park, finally emerging on the Upper East Side, whispering Lennon’s lyrics, “Love is touch, touch is love. Love is reaching, reaching Love. Love is asking to be loved,” over and over to myself.

Regarding John Lennon Anthology, Wikipedia says it “is a box set of home demos, alternative studio outtakes and other unreleased material recorded by John Lennon over the course of his solo career from “Give Peace a Chance” in 1969 up until the 1980 sessions for Double Fantasy and Milk and Honey. The anthology was divided by its compiler and co-producer, Yoko Ono, into four discs representing four eras in Lennon’s career: “Ascot”; “New York City”; “The Lost Weekend” and “Dakota.”

No Direction Home: Bob Dylan

This is supposed to be another Scorsese masterpiece. I am humiliated to admit I haven't seen this 2005 documentary yet. I have, however, seen the 1967 Dylan documentary Dont Look Back at least four times. So that counts for something. Somewhere.

Farwell, My Subaru by Doug Fine

This audiobook caught my eye. Here’s a blurb about it.

“In this memoir of mishaps and lessons learned, Fine shares his yearlong trek to turn his newly bought New Mexico ranch into a green and sustainable environment with as little carbon fuel as possible. From using two very lovable goats for his organic food production to transitioning into a biofuel engine for his truck and even installing solar panels, Fine balances the troubling decisions Americans must consider while also revealing a host of unexpected benefits. He advocates that a gradual process, despite having to deal with moments of hypocrisy, is essential for it to work. Fine’s wry narration blends well with his often humorous and sarcastic tone. The energy and enthusiasm of his reading indicates that Fine not only relished the events but is happy to share his experience with listeners.”

Personal Meditations

This audiocassette contains four individual meditations. One per side.

Back Care: Yoga for Beginners

I have chronic back pain from an injury I suffered while bartending in 2002.

The Child and the Curriculum and The School and Society by John Dewey

John Dewey is the Michael Jordan of Education. He’s the Bill Gates of Pedagogy. The Albert Einstein of curriculum. I will buy anything with his name attached.

A Death in Belmont
by Sebastian Junger

This is the guy that wrote The Perfect Storm and all those amazing features in Vanity Fair. How could I not take it home?

The Affluent Society by John Kenneth Galbraith

…Many people have told me to read this book. These people are usually the type who see the public sector as something under assault by the private sector. Anyway, here’s a good description of this book.

“Conventional wisdom has it that John Kenneth Galbraith’s The Affluent Society spawned the neoliberalism we see in Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, and other world leaders. The economist’s prose, lofty but still easily manageable, laid down the gauntlet for the post-cold war class struggle that was still far in the future in 1958. Galbraith saw the widening gap between the richest and the poorest as an emergent threat to economic stability, and proposed significant investment in parks, transportation, education, and other public amenities—what we now call infrastructure—to ameliorate these differences and postpone depression and revolution indefinitely. Widely criticized by conservatives and libertarians wary of public expenditures or increased government influence, Galbraith still influences liberal and neoliberal thinking. He has acknowledged that his work, like that of most social scientists, contains flaws (like his dire prediction of an out-of-control unemployment and inflation spiral that petered out in the 1980’s), but much of it remains fresh and true even today. Four years before Silent Spring, he wrote about the consumerist blight that threatened our wild lands equally as much as our cities; his hoped-for increase in environmental awareness has grown significantly in recent years. Whether you support the political implementations of his views, experiencing his writing is important to put those views in context. More than this, though, it is an honest pleasure to read such original ideas so well expressed.” —Rob Lightne

The World is Flat
by Thomas L. Friedman

Before you make fun of me for being the one person alive who hasn’t read this book, let me confess something: I have read it. But I think the book is more not less relevant than when it came out a couple years back. And since I found it on CD, I can play it for a few minutes each morning and each night. I tend to disagree with Friedman on a lot of things, but he’s spot on regarding the energy crisis, a topic he takes on directly in his latest book, Hot, Flat, and Crowded.

Writing the Natural Way by Gabriele Rico

I am always on the lookout for books on craft. This book seems to suggest that clustering can allow the right-side of your brain to help you put pen to paper.

Here’s a synopsis I found online.

“For those who yearn to write but falter at the sight of a blank page, the unique, student-proven techniques in Writing the Natural Way will help unlock natural writing style and storytelling abilities. First published in 1983, this popular classic has been revised with five completely new chapters and a wealth of field-tested exercises.”


Sybilla said...

Wow, that's an awesome catch! I heart libraries too, not in the least because I work in one (university library) for about 10 years now...

The self-titled debut album by Rufus is IMHO his best by far so you're in for a treat! Never afterwards has he reached that intensity and heartbreaking honesty, a true gem.

In case you wonder how I got here, I've got a Google alert on Mr. Wainwright to catch every snippet about him... :)

Intrepidflame said...

Great post. I am one of those people that has to own his books and CDs. I have never been drawn to libraries, because I can’t bear to part with a book after I have devoured and highlighted it. I am not proud of my trophyizing of books, but we all have our own crosses to bear.

On to the list:

Listen to Beauty Mark and Barcelona for some vintage Wainwright.

Those English Language tapes sounds off the hook.

No Direction Home is brilliant. It is something like ten hours long so buckle up and get ready for the long haul. I suggest you have a pen and paper and scribe the utter genius that will float from Dylan’s mouth in between scenes.

I have Democracy and Education by Dewey on my shelf; we should compare notes.

I am very excited for the loot you have found. Keep us posted on your progress.