Busytown by Jolisa Gracewood

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Busytown: Reading Room

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  • Joe Wylie,

    What do you think?" he demanded impetuously.
    "About what?"
    He waved his hand toward the book-shelves.
    "About that. As a matter of fact you needn't bother to ascertain. I ascertained. They're real."
    "The books?"
    He nodded.
    "Absolutely real--have pages and everything. I thought they'd be a nice durable cardboard. Matter of fact, they're absolutely real. Pages and-- Here! Lemme show you."
    Taking our skepticism for granted, he rushed to the bookcases and returned with Volume One of the "Stoddard Lectures."
    "See!" he cried triumphantly. "It's a bona-fide piece of printed matter. It fooled me. This fella's a regular Belasco. It's a triumph. What thoroughness! What realism! Knew when to stop, too--didn't cut the pages. But what do you want? What do you expect?"
    He snatched the book from me and replaced it hastily on its shelf, muttering that if one brick was removed the whole library was liable to collapse.

    F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 3510 posts Report Reply

  • Jackie Clark,

    It's difficult, this 'expression of your true self through possessions' malarkey.

    I don't bother anymore, if I ever did. Anyone coming into this house would think we were very white trash what with all the mess and general dirtiness of it all. And our possessions? Nothing there to indicate our taste at all, really. To know us you scan not bookshelves, but our kitchen shelves, and you may have to dig through one of our spare rooms, so you can get to our quite extensive, but very scattered, Crown Lynn collection.

    Does anyone else compulsively (but discreetly) go to parties check out their host's bookshelves, records and DVD collections? Don't know if I entirely trust people who don't have a book in the house.

    I totally do this before deciding how much closer I want to get to a person.

    We don't have parties (see: mess and dirt) but if we did, one would be very hardpressed to find any CDs (they're all on the HD), any DVDs (we don't watch them) and the books are all SF (and Ian's) since I don't buy books. I borrow them from my friendly local library.

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3123 posts Report Reply

  • Isabel Hitchings,

    Lucy - I really need to know what those twelve books are now.

    Christchurch • Since Jul 2007 • 705 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    There's very few adult books in my house. We need the space for all the children's toys. My office and garden shed have my old books, and in the lounge and bedroom you'd find small piles of the books I am actually reading, mostly from that amazing outdated idea know as a public library, which I discovered was vastly superior to my own pointless hoard since it contained mostly books I hadn't already read.

    The longer that huge pile of boxes of books in the shed festers there without being missed, the closer to home it brings me that keeping old printouts is a curious habit. All those books could be being read by someone else. Or, in many cases, particularly old technical manuals, destroyed to make useful space.

    I am, however, extremely embarrassed about the virtual absence of art from my walls. My wife and I differ too much in taste on that score.

    ManSpace (as I call my office/art and recording studio/gym/workroom/brewery/armory/bike shed/grog cellar/server room), is a whole different story. Invitation only, entry to the house is no guarantee.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8540 posts Report Reply

  • Cecelia,

    Love my books. Still have a small clump of my uni texts from the 60s including Contes Du Lundi (plastic wrapped) and Introduction to Old Norse (!). Never look at them but ... one day.

    Thanks for the free book link, Geoff - it's a real treat.

    And The Room. Had to buy it. I don't drink so I figure that buying me a new book every now and then is like a bottle of good wine:)

    Have you read Jonathan Franzen's Freedom? I finished it yesterday, read it quickly and have what I think is referred to as a "book hangover".

    Hibiscus Coast • Since Apr 2008 • 523 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __,

    my remixed CD of Kylie </shamefacedadmission>

    I once heard an interview with Nick Cave in which he said his bestselling album ever was Murder Ballads, not what you'd expect, but of course it's because of his duet with Kylie Minogue on Where the Wild Roses Grow. Cave says he's sure every single Kylie fan bought that album and then went, "What the fuck??!"

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3453 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart,

    Lucy - I really need to know what those twelve books are now.

    Lois McMaster Bujold (Cordelia's Honor), Jacqueline Carey (Kushiel's Dart), Lindsey Davis (The Silver Pigs), Georgette Heyer (The Grand Sophy), Guy Gavriel Kay (Tigana), Margaret Mahy (A Door In The Air), Robin McKinley (The Blue Sword), Terry Pratchett (Hogfather), Carl Sagan (Billions and Billions), S. M. Stirling (The Peshawar Lancers), and the Edmonds Cookbook.

    Amherst, MA • Since Nov 2006 • 2093 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Any locals asked you about the cookbook yet?

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16677 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    Jacqueline Carey (Kushiel's Dart)

    Dear Lucy,

    I love you very much.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4366 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart,

    Any locals asked you about the cookbook yet?

    We haven't actually had any locals over yet due to a sad lack of things for them to sit on. However, we're getting a couch today, so that should change shortly.

    Dear Lucy,
    I love you very much.

    Thought you might like that. ;) The aforementioned SFF library also has it in their "suggested books" display. I felt right at home.

    mostly from that amazing outdated idea know as a public library, which I discovered was vastly superior to my own pointless hoard since it contained mostly books I hadn't already read.

    Well, exactly; you get them out from the library so you can find out if you want to buy them.

    Amherst, MA • Since Nov 2006 • 2093 posts Report Reply

  • Caleb D'Anvers,

    This is a fascinating post: thanks so much for writing it, Jolisa! I went to Lydia Wevers's Inaugural Lecture on the Brancepeth at Victoria back in 2008, and was enthralled. I can't wait to read the book.

    As for reading in colonial New Zealand, it was a hugely important aspect of culture, and Traue's essay in Libraries & Culture on the circulating libraries of early NZ is fabulous. (I've got a PDF of this, if anyone wants it.) Wevers's book should be a real eye-opener for anyone who assumes that settler culture was in any way averse to the life of the mind. In fact, there was a vibrant textual economy at many levels of social class (not simply among the elite), and a strong tradition of autodidacticism and "self-culture," supported by lending libraries, atheneums, and clubs and associations. The idea that books and "high" culture in general are something for the "elite," and therefore suspect, is very much a twentieth-century phenomenon.

    The New Zealand Reading Experience Database, modeled on this and which is currently being set up at Victoria University, should be the stimulus for a lot more research in this area.

    East Greenwich • Since Mar 2008 • 432 posts Report Reply

  • Carol Stewart,

    The Edmonds afghan recipe totally rocks. We love it.

    Lucy - I don't know that Margaret Mahy book you mentioned - would it be way beyond the ken of an 11 year old? We are always on the lookout for the next read ..

    Christchurch • Since Jul 2008 • 659 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart,

    Lucy - I don't know that Margaret Mahy book you mentioned - would it be way beyond the ken of an 11 year old? We are always on the lookout for the next read ..

    Ooooh, it'd be just perfect! It's a book of short stories - fairytales, really - but not traditional fairytales, original ones. Some are funny and some are mystical and some are quirky and they're all brilliant. You get more out of it the older you are but it's essentially a children's book, so not beyond an eleven year old's ken by any means. Definitely worth a try.

    Amherst, MA • Since Nov 2006 • 2093 posts Report Reply

  • Isabel Hitchings,

    Lucy Excellent - a mix of things I know and love and things I haven't read but suspect I would like. You are SO in :-)

    Tigana was the first book my partner lent me and The Blue Sword is one I read as a young teen and has stuck with me ever since.

    Christchurch • Since Jul 2007 • 705 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Well, exactly; you get them out from the library so you can find out if you want to buy them.

    And after reading them, the answer is almost always "no". Either I read it, so that's done, or I didn't want to read it, so that's done, or I didn't have time to read it, so I renew, or I decided I want to read it later, so I let others read it in the meantime.

    It's been interesting how much more actual reading this has led to, rather than hoarding. When you've got 2 weeks to make up your mind, you either read it, or decide not to. When it's sitting in a shelf forever, you can endlessly delay the decision.

    So basically I pretty much only buy books that can't be got from the library.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8540 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle,

    So basically I pretty much only buy books that can't be got from the library.

    But *everything* can be got from the library, thanks to the wondrousness of interlibrary loan! </former interlibrary loan person who spent hours tracking down holdings of obscure things>

    I must say I don't really buy books anymore either, mainly because we don't have room for ANYTHING in this miniscule house, which is packed to the rafters with posters and DVDs and books and baby equipment and STUFF. Occasionally there's something I can't bear to be without, but it's usually visually-oriented. I think the last book we just HAD to own was, uh, a pictorial biography of Van Halen. (No, seriously, I challenge you to just look at it for five minutes: you can't stop laughing. It is the most ludicrous book I've ever, *ever* seen.)

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3656 posts Report Reply

  • Isabel Hitchings,

    I buy books whenever I can. I was raised by a librarian and have never quite gotten used to the idea that I am no longer exempt from overdue fines therefore buying books works out far cheaper and less embarrassing in the long run.

    Christchurch • Since Jul 2007 • 705 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace,

    I live in a book lined house. They remind me of my whakapapa. Some go back several generations, such as some 19th century recipe books and bibles, and then the mid 20th century NZ literary collection my parents built up such as the almost complete run of Landfalls in one of the bedrooms over the beds (that I should earthquake-proof somehow). Then there are collections of children's books, and texts from various courses over the decades, and most recently my bookshelf on autism (which are the only books I have actually bought for years). Then there are boxes in the garage requiring sorting before going to the Downtown Community Ministry book fair one day. My fathers' collection of green Penguins went there after he died.

    I feel very lucky to have this heritage. On Saturday mornings when I was a child, the family went off to our local branch library to look, see, hear and touch and finally decide on our three-book quota for the week. My mother borrowed tissue paper New Statesmans and glossy New Yorkers.

    This local body election a few off us have got together to campaign to keep these local branches, precious civic spaces, which always seem to be under threat these days.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 2089 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart,

    And after reading them, the answer is almost always "no". Either I read it, so that's done, or I didn't want to read it, so that's done, or I didn't have time to read it, so I renew, or I decided I want to read it later, so I let others read it in the meantime.

    Ah, you're one of those funny people who doesn't re-read books. I don't buy books unless I know I'm going to re-read them. Otherwise, as you say, that's what the library's for.

    Lucy Excellent - a mix of things I know and love and things I haven't read but suspect I would like. You are SO in :-)

    Tigana was the first book my partner lent me and The Blue Sword is one I read as a young teen and has stuck with me ever since.

    *fist pump* Tigana is the book I like to beat people over the head with when they tell me that genre writing can't be literature.

    Amherst, MA • Since Nov 2006 • 2093 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    the almost complete run of Landfalls in one of the bedrooms over the beds (that I should earthquake-proof somehow)

    What a way to go, under the weight of nationalist academic literature..

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16677 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace,

    Remembering about the New Yorkers reminded me of that moment that some children have when they suddenly realise they can read. The newly borrowed New Yorker was my mother's treat Sunday morning read in bed, while my father brought her a cup of tea. Whatever child was the youngest at the time would inevitably join her. It was while puzzling over the line-drawn cartoons in the New Yorker she was reading that I suddenly realised I could read the words, although the humorous meaning was completely incomprehensible.

    I read them for years and never got them. Must be like alcohol, you need to be grown up to appreciate the taste.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 2089 posts Report Reply

  • Ross Mason,

    This local body election a few off us have got together to campaign to keep these local branches, precious civic spaces, which always seem to be under threat these days

    Heh. That's great to see!!!!! I am "famous" in Pinehaven for being one of the front-people (frontspeople?? frontmen??) when the Upper Hutt Council wanted to ditch the Pinehaven Community Library about 15 years ago. I got to be President of the Library Committee for a year or so. That was fun with half the suburb sitting around the council chamber while we put our case. A motion was moved by our local councillor and Vooom!! Finance was approved with no dissention. No councillor was game to put their hand up agin it with THAT many voters around the place. We ended up "handing " it over to the Upper Hutt Council a few years later to run as a branch library. Even that has meant a few trips back to those chambers to reinforce the benefit.

    Had to smile this week though. Upper Hutt is expanding the Main Library and Pinehaven is having it's hours extended to 6 days a week to cater for the whole city 'cos the main one will be closed to Joe Public!!!!!!!!!!!! Yeeee Haaaa. Isn't that wonderful!!

    Upper Hutt • Since Jun 2007 • 1496 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace,

    Great work Ross. We call ourselves the Owners of Wellington Libraries (OWL) and have active (as required) for about 15 years fighting - first - that 1990s fashion for Business Process Re-engineering in the WCC, which did not understand that concept of public good that libraries provide, and wanted every council activity to be a narrowly defined economic market place. We fought for years to keep the mobile library but eventually lost that battle. Surveying all the candidates with a simple questionnaire has been very effective this election and we got an almost 100% response. Can't claim any credit for it as my friend Marie did the work. More info on our Facebook page.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 2089 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart,

    We call ourselves the Owners of Wellington Libraries (OWL) and have active (as required) for about 15 years fighting - first - that 1990s fashion for Business Process Re-engineering in the WCC, which did not understand that concept of public good that libraries provide, and wanted every council activity to be a narrowly defined economic market place.

    Good on you, all of you - the Wellington Public Library was a huge influence on me growing up, and I feel very lucky to have had access to as many books as it provided. I'm glad someone was fighting for it.

    Amherst, MA • Since Nov 2006 • 2093 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock,

    This month’s fave How It Works feature: how to mod that Nerf gun that your mother can’t quite believe she bought for you at Wal-Mart.

    You bought the gatling gun, didn't you? :)

    Reassure yourself with the thought that your lad will be learning quite a lot of practical electronics as part of the mod process.

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2396 posts Report Reply

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