Saturday, November 29, 2003

Slow Readers At Play

One of the frequent patron questions in probably any library is "What's good?" This is one of the most paralyzing questions for me. There I am, surrounded by books on all sides (we've got a few in the basement too) and when a patron asks that I can NEVER ever think of anything good.

I keep meaning to start making a list of books patrons recommend when they return them, but other than a few scratch paper attempts, I've not managed to accomplish it. Plus, everyone's tastes are different. We have one patron, Mrs. Sneeks, who reads everything we get and hates probably 80 percent of it. Books that the vast majority of our patrons are practically getting into fistfights over just to get on the Hold List, Mrs. Sneeks wouldn't deem to use as toilet paper.  And when she doesn’t like a book—again, 80 percent of the time—she has a tendency to hurl said book across the circ desk at us.  We don’t take offense, because she’s not trying to be mean.  She’s just demonstrating her ire with the talent of the particular author in question by trying to get their book out of her hands as soon as possible, and if she can put some spin on it as she does, all the better for her.  However, when Mrs. Sneeks actually likes a book and recommends it to me, I tend to pay attention... for about five minutes, then it slips out of my short term memory like that guy in.... in... um, that movie about the guy who... um... Oh, hey, a cup of coffee. How'd that get there?

Another of my problems is that I'm a frustratingly slow reader. (Frustrating to my wife, primarily, who devours big fat Diana Gabaldon books in a sitting.) And by slow reader, I don't mean that my reading rate is particularly slow, only that when I'm reading a book I tend to read a page or two before bed, or in the can, then I'll put the book down. Sometimes for days at a stretch. Or even years. Hell, I put down Fellowship of the Ring, 30 pages from the end of the book, in 1991, and haven't picked it up again. I know that's nerd sacrilege and puts me in danger of a geek card revocation, but it's true. It wasn't that I didn't enjoy the book, far from it. It was pretty good. I just set it down, intending to come back to it, and was... distracted, I guess... Hey, look... coffee!

However, there is a book that I have recently finished that I must highly recommend to one and all.

Life of Pi, by Yann Martel. It's one of the best books I've read in the last decade. (And, yes, I've read other books since putting down Fellowship, ya jerks!) It's a funny, beautiful, frightening, wonder-filled, heart-wrenching, kick you "squar" in the head sort of story. It's about a sixteen year old East Indian boy named Pi Patel whose ship sinks half way across the Pacific and who has to survive for several months in a life raft, with his only company... a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. It's a story that, as it proclaims on the inside of its dust jacket, will make you believe in God. (Though some might argue that it will make you believe in God while kicking you in the nuts.)

If I were to pick a director to adapt it into a film, M. Night Shyamalan would be the number one person on my list and I would burn the rest of the list before anyone could see it and get any bad ideas. In fact, the story of Life of Pi is almost tailor-made for Shyamalan.  It's so HIM you'd think he wrote it in the first place.

And the cool thing is, from what I've read, Shaymalan has read it, agrees with me and is now looking to adapt it to the screen as his next film.

If you've not read it, get thee to your local "liberry" and grab it. It's out in paperback too.

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An employee of a small town "liberry" chronicles his quest to remain sane while dealing with patrons who could star in a short-lived David Lynch television series.