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Librarian Blog

It's Satire. OK?

I have tried my hand at writing satire from time to time, and inevitably a lot of people don't get it.

Maybe it's because I didn't do it very well.

Or maybe people just have a problem recognizing satire.

Given the popularitiy of The Daily Show and SNL, you'd think the genre would be pretty easy for readers to spot.

When I picked up "The Zone of Interest" before Christmas and started reading, I was struck by Martin Amis' writing, but I found myself, an experienced satirist, wondering, "Is this satire or not?"

It took a little, but soon became obvious. Yes, it was satire.

I guess part of the reason his traditional German-language publisher declined to print the German tranlation of "The Zone of Interest" was because it was satire and a lot of folks wouldn't realize it, and you wouldn't want to start hacking off Germans who are understandably sensitive about the Holocaust.

See, the book is a satire about a key German concentration camp during World War II.

Now I see that Amis does have a publisher, and the book is due out later this year.

I can't wait to see what kind of reception it receives.

I predict it will not be favorable, even though the book is terrific.

It didn't work out

"Homegrown," a big book featuring posters from the Austin music scene in the late 1960s and 1970s, was debuted Sunday at Texas State University's library.

I went over there Sunday afternoon for the opening of an exhibit of the posters, and to hear a program about the book and the items.

I did buy the book, and am well pleased with it.

But, after waiting for more than 30 minutes for the program to start past the published time, I just left. I didn't want to be there all afternoon.

The reason I had an interest in this particular book and exhibit is because I was editor of the student newspaper in 1968-69 at what was then West Texas State University, and we published a tabloid-style newspaper so that we could upon occasion produce our own rock 'n' roll type poster front pages. We had an artist on the staff who could mimic the psychedelic style, and so we appeared more relevant than we probably were.

We picked up the idea from the music scene in Austin and San Francisco, but particularly Austin because several of us traveled from Canyon and Amarillo to go there for parties, and we were taken by the poster art.

I was surprised that several people had collected the posters and saved them over all these years. But, I'm certainly glad they did.

Just throw them away!

In addition to lacking a conscience, a San Francisco-area librarian certainly has need for an imagination.

The ABC affiliate in the San Francisco-Oakland communities reported this week that Carmen Martinez, director of the Alameda County Library, owned up to throwing awa 172,000 books in the last two years.

People found some of them recently and raised cain. They said the throw-aways included some works that had been published in the last four or five years, including a biography of Willie Mays.

The controversy surfaced this week when Martinez met with angry patrons.

Gosh, she said, what was I supposed to do? I have to buy new books and I don't have new shelving. Something's gotta give.

Apparently Ms. Martinez operates in a vacuum. This problem faces every single library on the face of the planet. Old stuff has to go away to  make room for new stuff.

So, why not do what we do:

A. Have a Friends of the Library book sale where you can get rid of a lot of the old books and make some money;

B. Have an area in the library where you regulary sell books and, again, make a little money;

C. Have a shelf in the library where you just give books away free of charge.


Maybe pen and ink was better

Right after the lunch hour today, stuff started going wrong.

First, the copy machine defaulted to a setting I've never seen written in English that I couldn't understand. Maybe if I were a Xerox repairman ...

Then, we couldn't get the fax machine to work.

And now we have just noticed that our middle thermostat is reading 77 degrees, but we had it set at 68.

I work with a couple of people who remember how it was when you had card catalogs, pencils, pieces of paper and maybe a rubber stamp with the date on it.

Days like today make me feel like I'm walking along the razor edge, just one step from losing all control over everything.

Unexpected preferences

The Washington Post published a story on Feb. 22 with some surprising information. Turns out that studies show that young people prefer books to digital materials when it comes to reading in certain situations.

For example, "A University of Washington pilot study of digial textbooks found that a quarter of students still bought print versions of e-textbooks that they were given for free."


Seems that students like books because they can focus more on reading them and comprehending what is in them. Digital devices seem to be too distracting.

People seem to be accustomed to scanning and skimming online, not actually "reading."

Still, some online science and math texts are preferred by students and teachers because the materials are actually portals to more granular offerings that help the users solve problems.

I wonder about the reading habits of much younger kids, though. Will they like books as much as their big brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers and grandparents?

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