Category Archives: Reading & Literacy

On Being Attracted to Bad Boys

Okay, I admit it … I’m attracted to bad boys.

For their books, that is. At least according to Howard Jacobson’s piece, “In Praise of Bad Boys’ Books,” which mentions some of my favorite writers, like Henry Miller and Philip Roth.

Roth

Jacobson articulates a quality that I think sums up a lot of the writers I love rather nicely, that:

In their own individual, rancidly sardonic way these novels of which I speak are always funny.

I like serious novels as much as the next guy – I took English 847 “Seminar in the American Novel” with Post-45 guru and bona fide rock star Florence Dore during library school for fun –  but the stuff I love, and go back to again and again, although serious, is always funny, and maybe even a little bit trashy . These books may not always be redemptive – if you want that go read Nicholas Sparks – but they always delight me, and allow me access into the twisted consciousness of another person trying to make sense of it all. 

[S]ome novelists make it possible for us to stare at pain with bitter and derisive comedy, and because there is a part of us that values truth above illusion, we grab at that bitter comedy for dear life.

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Filed under Education, On Being Human, Posts by Kevin Michael Klipfel, Reading & Literacy

On Reading: Should Academic Librarians Be Doing Reader’s Advisory?

When getting my nose in a book
Cured most things short of school,
It was worth ruining my eyes
To know I could still keep cool.

Philip Larkin, “A Study of Reading Habits

Perhaps the single most constant thread running through my life since I was a little boy is that I’ve always loved books and reading. When I was young, I was really into sports, and read sports biographies, mostly ghost written affairs about various New York Yankees and Buffalo Bills. I never liked school, and never did very well in it, either, but I still remember the books we read in class that I loved.

Later on,  after essentially failing out of high school, I got fired from a series of high-fashion department stores, and spent my free time roaming the bookstores of Westheimer and reading fiction. I had absolutely no interest in school, but loved literature. Books were what mattered to me.

During this time it was my dream – like literally, all I wanted in this world – to get a job in a bookstore. That was my life’s ambition: to be around books at work. Alas, my suitability to work at Barnes & Noble or Borders was apparently in question, because none of these places would hire me. Which, looking back on it, seems like a good thing, because I doubt I’d be doing what I want the way I am now if I had, in fact, gotten what I wanted at 20. Nevertheless, it seems fitting, looking back on that 20 year old self, that I became a librarian.  Books and reading are still pretty much right there at the top of the list of the few holy things there are to me in this world.

But here’s the strange thing: as anyone who’s ever applied to library school knows, just about the worst thing you can say in your statement of purpose is that you want to be a librarian because you love to read. Why? Because being a librarian, the story goes, has got very little to do with a love of books or reading at all. In fact, even saying that this is your reason indicates that you don’t understand the nature of the profession.

I want to tell you that I think this is very strange.

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Filed under Education, Library Instruction, Posts by Kevin Michael Klipfel, Reading & Literacy, The Library Game