Friday, June 5, 2009

New Book Cart Day!

We got some new books this week!

I'm thrilled -- it's been a couple months. Like pretty much everywhere else, Gallaudet's been affected by the economy, so we librarians had to hold off on our usual spending sprees for a month or two. It's not easy. Have you ever tried to quit smoking? I have. Take my word for it -- same feeling.

By chance or design, the first cartload this week contained mostly books that I'd ordered, with a few sprinkled in for the Deaf Collection and a few for one or two other librarians. In case you didn't know, I buy stuff for English and Popular Materials -- which usually translates to "literature" and "fun stuff," two categories that can be hard for me to differentiate for a couple of reasons: 1) I think all of it's fun, and 2) sometimes the term "literature" gets slung around pretty loosely, depending on who the author is, whether the book in question won any awards, or where the book's good reviews came from (the New York Times' Sunday Book Review, for instance, versus Cosmo, which I don't read, I swear). I also buy stuff for Fine Arts, although that was relatively thinly represented in this week's New Book Cart.

So what's in your future?

Brothers by Yu Hua
A young Chinese man, who was born on the same day his father died from a fall sustained while ogling women in the public bathroom, and his mother meet a new man and his son, and their lives, marked by their neighbors' taunting, begin to change. I was only able to skim part of the book, but I really, really liked what I saw. The book was apparently very popular in China when it was first published, in spite of its attitudes toward the Cultural Revolution and the country's slide towards capitalism.

Fledgling/Bloodchild by Octavia E. Butler
Two books by the first African-American woman to write science fiction, Fledgling and Bloodchild and Other Stories both evince the themes that Octavia Butler has become known for: race, gender, identity, and love. Fledgling tells the story of a 50-year-old vampire who looks like a 12-year-old child and her struggle to find love in a narrative that completely changes the common vampire mythos. Bloodchild is a collection of short stories that include the tales of a man who falls in love with an alien -- and is impregnated (of course); a virus that renders people unable to communicate; and the strange byproducts of hopelessness.

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks
The title is pretty self-explanatory -- in this book, the dead begin to walk and subsequently start a decade-long war with the living. This is the account of the entire war, as told by its survivors in interviews, tape recordings, and telephone conversations. The book doesn't play around with the concept of reanimated corpses; the walking dead are just that, shambling zombies with a taste for human flesh. It's a fascinating read, and you will never forget the Battle of Yonkers.

Confrontational Ceramics by Judith Schwartz
This beautifully-illustrated book examines the role of the artist as a social critic and the use of the medium to express subversive ideas that seek to change the passive viewer's relationship with the constructs of larger society. This is industry jargon for: "This is a book full of really interesting statues that will both entertain you and make you slightly uncomfortable, which is what the artists really wanted to do."

Curse of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz
A family of private eyes have wacky misadventures. The parents go on vacations, the lawyer son tries to stay out of other people's business, the older daughter suspects her landscaping next-door neighbor of dastardly deeds (complete with digital recorders and restraining orders), and the 15-year-old daughter tries to set her older sister up with a cop. This is pretty fluffy fare, good for a sunny afternoon.

The Alexander Cipher by Will Adams
An archeologist, whom everyone hates, sets out on a journey to uncover the stolen body of Alexander the Great with his plucky Australian friend. It's actually a fairly good mystery and well-written, even though this is Will Adams's first novel.

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
Only serious readers need apply -- this book is BIG. David Foster Wallace is one of those authors who like to play around with the conventions of novel-writing, and it shows in Infinite Jest, which tells the story of a man's family in near-future North America, which has turned into a massive corporate state subsidized by advertising. The man in question is a popular leader who dies after watching a mysterious movie, which is apparently so entertaining it causes people's brains to melt.

An Accidental Light by Elizabeth Diamond
After a twelve-year-old girl is killed in a traffic accident, things begin to change in unexpected ways for both her mother and her killer.

Angels of Destruction by Keith Donohue
Kind of a strange story about an old woman. Her daughter ran away in the 1960s to join a revolutionary group, and she spends the rest of her life alone -- until a mysterious young girl shows up on her doorstep. They both agree that the young girl will pose as the old woman's granddaughter and go to school, and everything works out ... until the old woman's sister shows up and must be persuaded that the girl is really the missing woman's daughter.

Figures in Silk by Vanora Bennett
A historical fiction novel about two daughters of a fifteenth-century silk merchant. One takes over the family business and becomes a successful silk merchant in her own right; the other becomes the mistress of the King. When the King's brother makes a grab for the throne, both sisters must make some hard choices to ensure their survival.

Why We Suck by Denis Leary
A satirical collection of cultural observations in the vein of I am America (And So Can You!) by Stephen Colbert and Are You There, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea by Chelsea Handler, this book takes the prototypically Learyish direct approach to examining why American society takes itself so seriously when there's so much to laugh at.

So Many Ways to Sleep Badly by Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore
Consisting of a sexually ambiguous narrator's adventures in San Francisco, including his/her roach/rodent problem, yen for bikram yoga, and tendency to turn tricks through classified ads in the paper, this novel explores the modern life of American subcultures and examines the tendency toward body consciousness in the gay community.

The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem
This novel covers three decades of life in a gentrifying Brooklyn neighborhood, starting with the first white family to move in and their trials after the mother abandons the family. The only child, Dylan, becomes friends with another motherless boy, Mingus, but their paths diverge as they grow older; Dylan becomes a music journalist, while Mingus ends up in jail, in spite of -- or perhaps because of -- everything.

So. It is a good crop this week. Next week, you'll be hearing from another librarian!

Question of the Week
I have a laptop, and I like to bring it to the Library and use the wi-fi to get my homework done with my friends. The only problem is that the big round tables on the first floor aren't anywhere near a power outlet! We have to drag the table over to a wall or a pillar so we can plug in our computers, which is hard (the tables are heavy). But we have to move it every time because the librarians keep moving them back. Can you do something about that?
Yes, indeed. Most of those tables are right next to my office, and I've walked right into a table more than once because I wasn't paying attention and assumed the table was where it's supposed to be.

The problem with moving the tables is that sometimes they end up blocking escape routes, which is not good. It also makes the building less accessible to people with mobility impairments, because there's less room for wheelchairs and crutches to navigate. Those are reasons why we keep moving the tables back to their original positions after you're done with them. We're also not crazy about plugging stuff into the walls or pillars, because it's just not safe; the power cords snake every which way, making them easy to trip over or -- if the cord is strong enough -- pulling your computer right off the table and onto the floor. Also, I've seen a student or two almost lose their pager to the bottom of someone else's foot because they tried to charge it from a wall outlet.

But fear not! Next time you're at one of those round tables on the first floor or in the basement, look under it. In most cases, you should see a power strip sticking out of the floor. That's for you. Almost all of our tables are equipped with power strips, each of which is connected to a (secure) floor outlet by a cord that's long enough to make sure that everyone at a given table is able to plug in their equipment.

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