“I am human: nothing human is alien to me.”
I first read this in a book by Isaac Asimov when I was in grade school. It wasn’t until college that I learned that this is an English translation of the Roman writer Terence. It remains one of the most powerful sentences I’ve read. If any single idea serves as my deepest moral code, it’s this.
I even made it the subtitle of this blog.
To me, this statement defines my responsibility to try and understand. All human feeling, all human thought and action, should be comprehensible to me. If human nature is capable of encompassing it, I should be able to relate to it. No matter how dark or twisted, no matter how bright or saintly—if it’s human, then by definition it shouldn’t be alien to me.
Continue reading “The Mystery of Hatred”
I recently read and shared the following article on Twitter and Facebook:
Bashing Romance Novels Is Just Another Form Of Slut-Shaming by Sarah MacLean (posted on Bustle, September 29, 2016)
Now that I’ve decided to start reading romance novels, I find that I have a desire to learn more about the history of the genre.
Continue reading “Why I Won’t Bash Romance Novels”
I took a class on Dante’s Divine Comedy in college. The class was taught by a visiting professor from the University of Padua. He talked about Dante the same way English speakers talk about Shakespeare, only even more so. The Divine Comedy is widely considered by native Italians as having invented the modern Italian language. This professor spoke of it as the purest and most perfect expression of his “mother tongue” (see footnote).
He spent significant time analyzing the terza rima structure of the work. In particular, he stated that many native Italians consider it to be, once again, the greatest expression of their language. It’s perfectly suited to Italian: the cadence captures the robust, rounded, plosive earthy lilt and rolling quality of it; Italian is one of the most rhyme rich languages in the world, and the complex rhyme scheme of terza rima is calibrated to make the most of that fact. Moreover, terza rima doesn’t work well in any other language. It’s purely Italian.
This got me wondering if there’s a poetic structure equally well suited to English, a structure as deeply native to English as terza rima is to Italian.
I’ve concluded that the limerick comes closest.
Continue reading “Dante’s Divine Comedy, Terza Rima & Why the Limerick Is the Greatest English Poetic Form”
Last week, I attended the three-day joint conference of the Kansas and Missouri Library Associations, “Libraries Without Borders.” I attended half a dozen sessions, learned about some useful projects and products, met lots of people – all the things you go to a conference to do. It was an enjoyable and productive few days. Every night, I went home excited to talk about all the new ideas in my head.
But the part of it that I keep going back to, the bit that sticks with me most powerfully, is the awards reception that was held at the end of the second day. Representatives of both the KLA and MLA handed out awards to various individuals for meritorious service, distinguished professionals, best library, etc. Pretty standard, as awards ceremonies go. What struck me about it is this:
Every single person who received recognition that evening made it a point to pass on credit for their work in their acceptance speech. Every one of them made it clear that they didn’t do their work alone, and that their awards belonged as much to their staff, or their director, or their board who supported them. Every one of them acknowledged that their success was the result of the efforts of many other people, working on many fronts.
Continue reading “Proud to Be a Librarian: Thoughts on the KLA/MLA Joint Conference”
Semi-related follow-up to my last post.
Libraries are uniquely qualified to recognize both the value of current popular titles and also the enduring benefits modern readers can realize when they take the time to explore our ongoing literary heritage.
Libraries celebrate education and entertainment both as necessities of a life well lived.
Libraries are on the front lines of diversifying the stories available to our communities, undertaking the essential work of expanding our cultural consciousness and mutual understanding.
Libraries are where you find yourself and also discover the unknown.
Libraries are where we learn what it means to be human, in all our myriad aspects.
I recently finished reading The Meaning of the Library: A Cultural History, edited by Alice Crawford (Princeton University Press, 2015). Several passages from the concluding essay, “The Modern Library and Global Democracy” by James H. Billington, stood out:
Books are our guardians of memory, tutors in language, pathways to reason, and our golden gate to the royal road of imagination. Books take us to new places where boundaries are not set by someone else … . Books help us to pose the unimagined question and to accept the unwelcome answer. Books convince rather than coerce. They are oases of coherence where things are put together rather than just taken apart. Good books take us away from the bumper cars of emotion and polemics in the media into trains of thought that can lead us into place we might not otherwise ever discover. (p. 263)
This is why some people are afraid of books. This is why some people see certain books as a threat. Books are transformative, books empower—books encourage independence of thought. This is why some people seek to control them.
Libraries are antidotes to fanaticism. They are temples of pluralism, where books that contradict one another sit peacefully side by side on the shelves just as intellectual antagonists work peacefully next to each other … . (p. 263)
This is why some people are afraid of libraries. This is why some people see libraries as a threat. This is why some people seek to control them. Pluralism is anathema to control and dominance.
My favorite quote, though, and the best conclusion we can come to, is this:
Reading can balance our noisy, hurry-up, present-minded world with what Keats called “silence and slow time.” Whatever else you do in life, do not fail to experience the simple pleasure of being alone with a good book on a rainy day. (p. 265)
Rebecca Vnuk interviewed me for the June issue of Booklist Online’s Corner Shelf. I talk about digital literacy, social media, online readers’ advisory, and try to describe what I do for a living.
Read it here »