Monthly Archives: November 2008

Happy Holidays

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I’ve worked all Thanksgiving break but the book revisions are nowhere near complete.

I could treat everyone to a long discussion of the stress, despair, and misery that now characterize my every waking moment, but I suppose no one wants to read that, and I don’t have time for it anyway.

At this point it looks like Christmas vacation is going to be spent in the same manner as Thanksgiving was. I will blog again when I can, but I am so far behind in EVERYTHING, with no idea how to catch up, that I don’t want to speculate as to when that might be.

Ho ho ho.

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Everyone’s a critic

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Two posts in one day? This is, and I do not exaggerate, unprecedented. But I just had to get away from book revisions.

Here’s the problem with book revisions, see. It’s one thing to have to correct spelling mistakes and typos and the occasional word choice that, on reflection, was somewhat less than brilliant—though I should add that the process is at best tedious, and at worst downright embarrassing, as I noted earlier today.

The bigger problem is with substantial changes to content. Striking whole passages, or needing to add whole new passages, or even moving around the structure of the book itself—well, gosh. That stings.

And it’s a lot of work, I’m not fond of that part of it either, but I can handle the drudgery if I permit myself to swear frequently. (Finding all the time to handle the drudgery is another issue entirely, one I am pretending doesn’t exist).

It’s the, y’know, the CRITICISMS OF MY EVER-LOVING INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY that kind of hurt.

Great way to spend a Sunday, that. Nothing like spending ALL BLEEDING DAY in the act of humbling oneself before editors who, presumably, know better.

If I am ever stupid enough to write a book again—and I definitely won’t write another, at least not a nonfiction reference book—if I am ever this stupid again, I am going to get a dog, so that I can have someone nearby who thinks I am an intellectual giant. My ego is fragile; ergo, I need a dog.

(To be fair to the cats, Gremlin was on my lap earlier, but as she was kneading she got a claw in a nipple. That was the end of that particular cuddle session.)

(And no, I don’t know what’s up with the prevalence of the word “nipple” in the blog today.)

Feel free, absolutely free, to tell me that I am an intellectual giant. Sometimes—strike that, most times—I get irritated when people exaggerate my intelligence. This is not one of those times.

The Literal Truth

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Okay, I lied, said I wasn’t gone post again till the manuscript was finished, but this is too funny to keep to myself.

When writing a reference guide to Women’s Nonfiction, one must endeavor to catch typos and spelling errors BEFORE sending the draft to the editor. I have just learned this the hard way.

There I am, skimming through Chapter Three (“Health, Wellness, and Beauty”), looking for my editor’s comments on the section titled “Sexual Health and Satisfaction.”

Now we’re all adults here, we are too mature to be discomfited by topics of a personal nature, leastaways if those topics are addressed in the context of professional writing. Right? Right?

Bugger if I didn’t just about die from mortification, though. Seems I’d added an extra “i” to the, ah, the word “clitoral” in my discussion of The Clitoral Truth, by Rebecca Chalker. To have one’s editor, one’s male editor, one’s male editor old enough to be one’s father highlight the misspelled “clitorial” and say “It’s spelled clitoral” is…

…is why I’m not a nationally recognized sex expert. In the privacy of my own home, in the process of editing– editing! the least sexy job EVER!– I blushed like a schoolgirl.

I suppose there may be a few other reasons why I’m not a nationally recognized sex expert, but in deference to personal pride this shall be the one I acknowledge. It is not a matter of inexperience, heavens no, nor of inadequacy nor insufficient knowledge; the only reason I don’t have my own radio sex talk show is that I am charmingly, disarmingly modest.

This comes from the same woman who discussed, publicly, in rather vivid detail, her mishap with the folding cot and the nipple ring, but we don’t have time to consider possible inconsistencies of logic because, wow, lookit the time, gotta get back to the book bye!

The Unbearable Being of Lightness

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Until such time as I can move to a cold, dark, inhospitable locale, I must content myself with the environs in Wilhelmsplatz, which are effing intolerable in the summer but not so awful this time of year. The leaves are busy being pretty and the sun graciously retires itself just about the time I get off work, leaving me with a whole evening of darkness.

Why do I have a keen preference for cold weather and dark skies? Is it a reaction against my early years in Mississippi? Is it a sympathetic reaction to my grumpy personality? Is it just the way I’m built?

Don’t know, but coming home to an evening full of darkness floats my boat. It would be enough to put me in a cheerful mood, if we could ignore my relentless depression and stress, which we can’t, but the point here is that I’m glad to have all that yucky sunlight banished to the daytime hours.

Relentless depression and stress. Hrm. We’ve already covered the depression bit rather thoroughly. It’s still here, if you’re wondering, seems to have settled in and made itself at home. These pesky diseases, you let them get too familiar and they march on in like they own the place.

The stress, now… I don’t want to jinx things, but the stress should be lightening to a manageable level come December first. That is when my book revisions are due. (And that is my feeble excuse for ignoring this blog between now and then. Sorry. It’s just a few weeks that you’ll have to go without your Lesbrarian fix. Hope you can forgive me.)

Living alone, I have decided, kind of blows. I am an intensely private person, so there’s a good chance that my conclusion is fundamentally flawed, but I can’t shake the feeling that having another adult around the place would be an improvement. Consider:

1. A second income would relieve me of the need to work multiple jobs
2. A second person would have a spare car key. A spare car key would have been mighty handy the other day, when I locked my keys in the car at Food Loin. (I had ninety minutes on the trunk of my car to reach this conclusion, and I stand by it.)
3. A second person would, theoretically, provide snuggle services, in a rather more satisfying way than three cats do, though I must admit that they’ve been giving it their best shot recently. Cold weather strikes again!
4. A second person would be a perfect scapegoat for blame.

If the dishwasher remains unloaded, or if carpet needs vacuuming, or if the trash needs to be taken out, I cannot possibly, in any way, in any fashion whatsoever, blame anyone else.

This is totally unfair.

And—pay attention now, I’m about to cleverly relate things back to my previous discussion of stress—I cannot blame anyone else for my decision to write a book.

The stress, tension, toil, exertion, lost time, and general bitterness surrounding my godforsaken manuscript can be blamed, and it just kills me to admit this, can be blamed on no one but myself.

The manuscript has me miserable. It has had me miserable almost since the get-go, it will continue to make me miserable through Thanksgiving (“Sorry, Mom and Dad, can’t visit, have to write—yes, I know I said that last year, too”), and do I have a roommate/lover/spouse to blame? No, no I don’t.

“Come now, Jessica,” I hear you thinking. “Surely you wouldn’t be so petty, not to mention absurd, as to blame another person for your decision to write a book?”

Oh yes. Yes I would. Dishes, laundry, library science texts—I wouldn’t discriminate.

Wretched, horrid book. Every time I stop to think about how much I hate it, which is approximately every three seconds, I’m forced to accept that it was my own damn fault.

I would be absolutely, irrevocably, incontrovertibly mad with despair, were it not for one saving grace. (Well, two saving graces, but we’ve already thoroughly discussed my pleasure with the seasonal weather changes, so let’s move on.) That saving grace is graphic novels.

As I’ve mentioned before, the graphic novels collection at the library is undergoing a transformation, thanks in no small part to my obdurate stubbornness.

An aside: I miss being an administrator, though I’ll be the first to confess that my memory is perhaps fuzzy on this count; maybe I only think I miss being an administrator. Being a mere link in the chain relieves me of a hell of a lot of responsibility, which can be nice, but on the other hand, it relieves me of a hell of a lot of responsibility, which sucks. I like being in control. I like having authority to make decisions. I mean, good grief, I’ve only been at the bookstore job a few weeks and already I’m itching to make substantive changes. It is my natural inclination to try to improve things

Back to the narrative at hand: I am not a bigwig at the library, nor a mediumwig. I can bellow commandments from the mountaintop till the cows come home, and nobody has to do a thing. But my bellowing about the graphic novels has paid off. They are in the process of being rescued from the oblivion of adult nonfiction. By no means is the project finished, but already there is a noticeable collection of graphic novels situated in a high-traffic area of the library.

The change of location alone is a huge improvement, but what really sweetens the deal is the new classification system. The Dewey Decimal System suffices for most types of books (though I’ll always be a Library of Congress type of girl), but its reliance on author doesn’t do so hot with graphic novels. A gajillion different authors—to say nothing of illustrators, inkers, pencillers, etc. et. al—have contributed to Batman, and to Spiderman, and to all those other superheroes. Arranging them by author scatters them throughout the collection. With our new cataloging approach, they are grouped together.

I don’t have numbers yet, but anecdotally, I can tell you that the graphic novels are generating a lot of interest. Folks who would never have found them in the 741.5 section are now chancing across them.

What really warms my heart is that graphic novels can offer so much to so many different people. They come in all kinds of different fiction and nonfiction genres—something for every reader, y’know—but here’s the kicker: there’s something even for the non-reader. Graphic novels are accessible for teenagers (especially teenage boys), reluctant readers, and people who don’t speak English as a first language. Thanks to their illustrations, graphic novels can draw in people who have no truck with text-only books.

Or hell, maybe I’m just happy to have all the bound edition of 100 Bullets on the shelves. That series rocks.

Now it’s disturbing to me that the only thing getting me out of bed in the morning, the graphic novels, is work-related. I don’t want to turn into a bitter old woman whose only pleasure in life derives from her job. Don’t get me wrong—given the choice between loving my job and hating it, I think I’ll take the first option—but I am leery of turning into a lonely soulless career woman.

It’ll have to do for now, though, and for the next few weeks, to distract me from my manuscript, which as I may have mentioned is the bane of my existence. Speaking of which, I ought to get to work on it. Or else I should take the coward’s way out and go to sleep (“Whoopsie, couldn’t work on the book, was sleeping!”). Nine p.m. is awfully early for bed, but that’s another advantage to it being dark. If I can find a cat or three I might just tuck in.

Bye for now, till December.

Hail to the chief

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It was during my undergraduate years that I realized I was a racist—I, an avowed liberal, raised to judge humans based on merit and worth, rather than skin color or sex or religious beliefs.

If you’d told me I was a racist, I would have scoffed. Racism, as I understood it, was the idea that non-whites were inferior. This horrid notion and all its trappings—lynching and slavery, Jim Crow and Simon Legree, segregation and the Klan—had nothing to do with me or my worldview.

It’s a different era now, and while a few die-hard idiots still cling to their unadulterated racist ideals, most people have moved beyond. White parents these days (mostly) raise their kids to be tolerant, or at least they try to. The separate drinking fountains of the Civil Rights era, prevalent just a generation or two ago, would be unthinkable today.

Good. We’re beyond that, more or less.

However.

The racism that exists now is subtle, so subtle that lots of people with racist ideas truly have no concept of it. I was one of them, myself.

Are you a white person? If so, answer me this: were you thinking about race the last time you had a job interview? Did you look like the people on the hiring committee? Did race play a factor at all? Were you nervous because of it, worried that you had to try extra hard to prove yourself worthy?

Probably not.

Or this: When you walk into a store, do the clerks give you an extra glance or follow you around to make sure you don’t steal anything, because of your white skin color?

Here, let’s get really subtle. Let’s say you’re trying to point out a gentleman in a crowded room. Do you say “That’s him, the black fella over there”? Okay, fine. But would be as likely to say “That’s him, the white fella over there”? Or would you only stop to mention race if it were different from your own skin?

Being white is a luxury that most white people truly don’t appreciate. When people judge us, they judge us simply by what we do and think and say. They don’t stop to judge us against the context of race.

I can’t stop benefiting from white privilege. I can be aware of my own privilege, and to try as hard as I can to fight against my own unintended racism, but I can’t change society.

We’ve got a new president, though. Maybe he can do it.

Seriously. Maybe having a black president will make people think about race. At the very least, I hope that President Obama can assuage some fears amongst the white folks who still harbor old-school racist sentiments. Not every black guy is in jail or dealing drugs, see? But I hope that having a black president will inspire some deeper thinking amongst the white people who—like me, once upon a time—never stopped to think about the incessant, insidious advantages if being white in America.

Failing that, maybe Obama could just stop global warming. That would also be acceptable.

Worked at the bookstore today. Working all the time is interfering with my writing projects (my effing book revisions are due December 1st), and as for things domestic—well, I need to do laundry in a serious way, but I don’t have the time to get to the laundromat. This sucks. And even if I did have the time I’d probably be too tired.

I had kinda hoped that securing a master’s degree would relieve me from the need to work every bleeding hour of my life. I was wrong.

It is, however, enjoyable. To my delight and surprise, I am realizing how much I know about popular literature. It is true that I am a public librarian, but my readers’ advisory skills are called upon infrequently. My interactions with the public usually involve answering reference questions, and helping folks with their computers, and directing people to the bathroom.

And, yes, it so happens that I write a lot of professional articles on reading and readers, and I’m on the brink of publishing a reference book on pleasure reading, but I’ve always privately thought I was a bit of a fraud. I tend to fake it a lot, and hope no one notices.

(If, um, you’re an editor of mine, um… That was a joke! Ha, ha!)

This bookstore thing is kind of a power trip, actually. People are asking for my opinions, and then, based on how I direct them, they are forking over perfectly good money to take my advice. Yowza.

They sometimes ask for my advice at the library, but it’s not quite the same. “If you don’t like you, you can bring it back,” I’ll joke. (This punchline no longer strikes me as even remotely funny, as I’ve used it a few gazillion times, but it always gets a laugh. Feel free to steal it, my fellow librarians.)

Enough from me. I’m exhausted. I’m going to fall asleep right after I pick out my clothes for tomorrow. The choices in my closet are pretty meager, as nearly nothing is clean, meaning that my garments will be either black, or… black. Strange, considering that I deliberately wore black on the day following the last presidential election, to signify my sorrow. Should Mr. Obama swing by the library tomorrow (and I don’t see why he wouldn’t), I hope he’ll understand that I am giddy and hopeful about his presidency, despite the somber apparel.