Free for All: Oddballs, Geeks, and Gangstas in the Public Library, Don Borchert

I put a hold on this book in November, after reading about it here, and I almost canceled it the day before it actually came in, because I thought surely the book was lost and would never be returned, and I was just out of luck as far as reading this book went.  Which I thought was too bad because it sounded interesting, and I was curious to know what I missed out on when I dropped out of the library science master’s program.

This book is amusing and entertaining, which is what it’s intended to be.  The stories he tells are funny and engaging, and it does give a good idea of the day-to-day life of a librarian.  But it never got past fun.  I one time read a memoir – I think it was A Charmed Life – where the author showed her book to an agent, or an editor, or something, and the person said that the book didn’t have a clear ‘sentence’; i.e., it wasn’t clear what sort of a book it was, and what it was saying.  That ‘sentence’ is what Free for All just didn’t have.  Each chapter had a sort of structure, but the book as a whole is just a great big collection of amusing/alarming/sad anecdotes.  As I say, it was entertaining, but it didn’t have the unifying structure that could have made it a really good memoir.

I also have to say, without any good explanation, that I wasn’t in love with the way he talked about race.  It’s nothing I could put my finger on – this happens to me sometimes, that someone will be talking about race, and I won’t be able to quote any one thing they’ve said as evidence to support my discomfort, but I will just not feel good about how they are talking.  I was not comfortable with the way the author wrote about racial issues.  It felt not quite right, that’s all I can say.  I enjoyed the book when he wasn’t talking about race.

9 of 1: A Window to the World, Oliver Chin

Meh.  I saw this mentioned on Amazon when I was hunting for something else, so I got it out of the library and read it last night.  I wish I had read my book about Edward Murrow instead when I was falling asleep.  It wasn’t bad at all, I just never connected with it.  There’s nine high school students talking about their backgrounds, and then each of them interviewed someone from a different background about 9/11.  I wasn’t as much in the mood for it as I thought I would be, although it did remind me that I want to read some books about U.S. foreign policy.

Virgin: An Untouched History, Hanne Blank

I’ve been meaning to read this book for ten thousand years.  I saw it at Bongs & Noodles once, when I had a bunch of B&N gift card credit, and thought seriously about getting it, before ultimately deciding on something totally different.  And then I got it out of the library before Christmas last year.  I love the library.  I don’t know how anyone functions without the lovely library.

This book is just what you might imagine, a history of virginity, or really, cultural attitudes towards virginity.  It is completely fascinating.  Really.  I’ve been staying up late the past two or three nights being sucked in by my addiction to this book and all the interesting stories it contained.  Ooo, like this one about a crazy Hungarian baroness (this is true) who thought that she could make herself young and beautiful again by bathing in the blood of virgins.  So she got all these little peasant virgin girls and utterly hung them upside down from their feet and drained their blood, and then she started a finishing school, ho ho ho, for aristocratic girls and did the same thing to them.  I think deep down she wanted to be caught.  What a crazy.

(That reminded me of how Oscar Wilde’s VILE BOYFRIEND, Lord Alfred Douglas, had an ancestor that was crazy and one time killed a scullery boy and roasted him on a spit and ate him.  It is no surprise that horrid Lord Alfred Douglas and his horrid father were so horrid and insane, with the lunatic insanity and the dangerous levels of instability.  I have long suspected that Oscar Wilde was too insecure to go out with anyone he perceived as his equal.  Too bad, because really, Oscar Wilde was great and could have done much better than Lord Alfred “I am batshit insane and so’s my old man” Douglas.)

The book discusses a number of different topics, including views of virginity in the ancient, Christian, and post-Reformation world (and by “world” I pretty much mean “West”), erotic fetishization of virginity; virginity’s apparently declining importance in the modern developed world; AND BUFFY.  Er, which wasn’t really its own chapter or anything.  I just like Buffy.  I was pleased that Hanne Blank liked what Joss Whedon did with Buffy’s story, and that she didn’t think Buffy was being punished for losing her virginity.  Because in fairness, Buffy is going to suffer miserably no matter how well or badly she’s behaving.

For a single book about a massive topic, this book covered a lot of ground, and I really enjoyed it.  There were still tons of things it didn’t get into – there wasn’t much about cultural attitudes towards virginity in the Middle East, Asia, etc., for instance.  I kind of want to read the other one, Anke Bernau’s Virgins: A Cultural History, but my library, alas, hasn’t got it.  I am thinking of donating money to the university library so they will GOD LET ME CHECK OUT BOOKS AGAIN.  Not having access to the university library is the only, only downside to having graduated from college.

Rereading Sex: Battles Over Sexual Knowledge and Suppression in Nineteenth-Century America, Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz

Sexual ethics are fascinating, aren’t they?  But I got tired of this book anyway.  It was all disorganized.  I was pleased to learn about Sylvester Graham, a completely joyless fellow who advocated bland food, invented the graham cracker, and said that if someone didn’t do something to stop little boys from masturbating, they would grow up and become “a living volcano of unclean propensities and passions”.  I swear.  Those were his words.  I suspect they are burned into my brain forever.

But as for the rest, Ms. Horowitz kept teasing me with the promise of a good story, and then not delivering.  She’d be like “And a fascinating trial ensued!” and move on to something else without saying another word about the fascinating trial.  I believe this is because America didn’t keep good records of trials, so okay, it’s not her fault.  I still really wanted to know more.  Nothing I love more than hearing stories about trials relating to sexual ethics.

Oh well.  On to the next.

The Lucifer Effect, Philip Zimbardo


Edit to add: Edit to add: Yes, ick.  That’s all I have to say about this book.  It creeped me out and I was loath to finish it but I finished it anyway because I was stuck in the airport and I had nothing else to read except for The Ape Who Guards the Balance, which I had already finished, Jenna Starborn, ditto, and my Norton Anthology of American Literature.

It was all about how people with power over other people become power-mad and psychologically abusive.  It was creepy.  The Stanford Prison Experiment was creepy, creepy, creepy, in addition to being, may I just say, bad science; and I know that the author said he was sorry, but I don’t think he was striking the right tone of total all-encompassing abject remorse.  So I say ick to this book.  It was interesting in a way but mainly I felt icky after I had read it and had to wash it down with Doctor Who, Juno, and part of The Two Towers, all of which were my in-flight entertainment.