I’m a fraud. I’m not a reader. I talk the talk but it’s all lies. Your average hamster knows more about popular literature than I do.
True Confessions of a False Librarian
(does this thing do blinking text? …No?… I suppose that’s for the best.)
I have been reading since age 2– almost 3, but I was still technically a two-year-old. My first book was Hop on Pop.
My first grown-up book was Watership Down. Read it when I was 8. I liked the bunnies. I didn’t pick up on the misogony. ("Hey, boys, let’s go start a new life on that next hill over there!" .. "Okay!" [two months pass.] "Shit! We forgot to get girl bunnies! We’re gonna die!")
Shortly thereafter I discovered Stephen King. Reading all his books, and then re-reading, kept me occupied through my teen years. I confess to maybe reading a Babysitters Club book or two or thirty– this despite being insulted by the transparent plots and static characterizations– but truly, most of my reading was school-related. I didn’t read much popular stuff.
(Okay, FINE. I read the Sweet Valley books. Quit badgering me.)
Then I got to college and found myself majoring in English. (And Russian history and Women’s Studies.) I read a slew of books, you betcha, but the Norton Anthology of English Literature v. I and v. II aren’t exactly bestsellers.
(Exception: in college I discovered Harry Potter. I am J.K. Rowling’s biggest fan. I mean it.)
Then I went to library school. (What the fuck else are you going to do with a degree in English, history, and women’s studies? Nothing, that’s what. Not a thing. It’s a useless piece of paper. I was unemployable.)
So I got to read a lot of library science literature. Can’t say as I recommend it.
Then somehow I found myself in a job at a public library where I was supposed to buy books that normal people would like to read.
"Oh shit," I said to myself. "Shit shit shit."
Not very eloquent, but there’s a certain raw energy there, wouldn’t you say?
As I believe I have demonstrated, I’ve always been an avid reader, but the types of books I prefer tend to come with prefaces by esteemed scholars and lots of explanatory footnotes. And bibliographies. The only popular author I was familiar with was Stephen King, and there’s a no-brainer if ever there was one. Any collection development librarian who doesn’t purchase SK for her library should be fired. No: shot.
So I’ve been faking it for over a year now. I’ve been working my tail off to play catch up, but it’s slow going. There are a lot of genres and a lot of popular authors I need to read up on. And that doesn’t even take into account the quirky, underground, cult-favorite titles that certain librarians in Seattle have the audacity to be fluent in, with the net effect of making me feel singularly stupid.
Is there a priest around? I need to confess. I have not read any of the following authors:
· James Patterson
· Nora Roberts
· Karen Kingsbury
· Patricia Cornwell
· Rita Mae Brown
· Beverly Lewis
Or any of these genres:
· Westerns (unless you can count Brokeback Mountain. That’s a stretch.)
· Regency romances
· Street Lit
And I have VERY limited experience in reading romances, chick lit, contemporary fiction, women’s fiction, non-academic nonfiction, Southern lit, urban lit, Christian fiction, horror… and I could go on.
You may be wondering how a poseur like me could get a job writing about popular fiction for NoveList. Good question. Here’s the story:
When I was in grad school I decided I should be a volunteer. Civic duty called, style of thing. So I signed up to volunteer with ComPeer, a mental health program that matches a mentally stable person with a mentally unwell person. (They must have made a mistake. They thought I was the healthy one. Chalk it up to a clerical error.)
That’s how I met Jane. (How’s that for a transparent pseudonym?) Jane and I spent an hour per week together, getting coffee or going shopping or just hanging out. It was good for her to get out of the house, to have someone supportive to listen to her.
Thing is, I graduated and moved to another state. Obviously the official ComPeer relationship ended, but it’s not like I was going to tell Jane to bugger off. She has my phone number and we still talk every few weeks.
Last Christmas Jane invited me down to Chapel Hill to attend a holiday gathering. It was not actually inconvenient, as I was passing through that day while en route to my parents’ house in western NC.
But the thing is, see, is that I hate parties. I hate gatherings of people, even when I know them, and save for Jane and her family, these would all be strangers. Her care team (local church do-gooders) would be there.
I really didn’t want to go. But I knew how much it would mean to Jane, and it was only for an hour anyway…
While I was there, considerately holding up a wall in a dark corner, a not-too-scary woman approached me and asked if I was the one with the Muggle license plate. (MUGL, actually. Some fucker already has the correct spelling.)
We got to talking Harry Potter, and then books, and then it slipped that I was a librarian.
"Oh!" she said. "Are you familiar with the database NoveList?"
Familiar with it? FAMILIAR WITH IT? I adored NoveList. It’s the best thing since pad thai.
This nice lady, Katherine, turned out to be an editor with NoveList. From that point we started an email correspondence, and eventually I got up the nerve to ask if she needed another writer. (Me, of all people! Me, with no qualifications!)
Turns out she did need another writer, which is how I sneaked my way onto the NoveList crew. Excepting me, it’s a group of very savvy, knowledgable, book-smart librarians. It’s how I got to meet Marian– obviously the highlight of the experience– and it’s how I got to meet Melvil, my new boss.
Yup. Because I decided to volunteer with Jane in grad school, and because I forced myself to go to her holiday party after I had moved away, I got to meet Katherine, which meant I got the prestige of writing for NoveList, which meant I was more than just a random name to the guy doing the hiring at the new job.
And that, ladies and gents, is the finest example of serendipty I have ever encountered. It would be the perfect story if the leading lady weren’t an imposter.