Mar 29, 2015

Sunday Catch Up

Copies of the Young Avengers and of The Time of the Ghost by Diana Wynne Jones on my kitchen table
The end of March is almost here — a lot has happened in my life this month, both good and bad, and as a result I didn’t achieve much on the blogging front. I have been reading, though: highlights include Laura Ruby’s Bone Gap, I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson, and the amazing Rat Queens. I’ll have nearly a week off work over Easter, which I really hope will give me the chance to catch up on blog writing. I also have a series of posts outlined in my head about all the comics I’ve been reading this year and how much fun I’m having with them — let’s hope they actually get written. And I’m watching The Wire at long last, though that’s currently on hold while my partner is away. Lastly, I’m sad that I didn’t get to write a post for Kristen’s Diana Wynne Jones month. As you can tell by the picture above, I’m reading The Time of the Ghost, but chances I’ll get to write about it before Tuesday are pretty much nil.

So, what have I been up to? Work has been very challenging in ways that unfortunately I can’t say much about in public, but I do have a piece of good news to share: I’m going back to Edinburgh this August, and I couldn’t be more thrilled. As some of you might remember, my visits to the Book and Fringe Festivals in 2011 and 2012 were some of the best holidays ever. I’m going for other reasons this time around, but as the festivals will still be on that weekend I really hope I’ll be able to catch some events. So yeah, that’s the thought that’s been keeping me going through some hard times.

More things, in the shape of links and bullet points:
  • I’m still heartbroken about Terry Pratchett and this made me cry all over again. There have been a lot of excellent tribute posts, but I’m going to highlight this one because I like the phrase “militant empathy” and because it sent me on a Kieron Gillen reading spree.

  • This essay about why the title of Neil Gaiman’s latest short story collection made some of us uncomfortable is good.

  • A Linguistic Comparison of Letters of Recommendation for Male and Female Chemistry and Biochemistry Job Applicants: not exactly surprising, but still.

  • A radical publishing collective: the Journal of Radical Librarianship — it’s hard to explain how much coming across this link this past week meant to me. It’s a wonderful feeling to discover that there are people out there doing an excellent job of articulating all the jumbled thoughts on my mind lately and turning them into concrete strategies and arguments. An excerpt:
    Libraries have been encouraged to think of their objectivity as political neutrality and librarians have been discouraged from thinking about the political implications of their work. Radical librarianship is an alternative position. It acknowledges that libraries are and always have been inherently political rather than – as has been the accepted view – politically and ideologically neutral. It argues that the ethical roots of librarianship are openness, free access to information, and a strong community spirit – principles we apply differently to the neoliberal appropriations of those terms – and that practice in librarianship should be true to these roots. It attempts to present a real alternative to the current orthodoxy in library discourse: a discourse that sits within a wider dominant ideology of capitalism.
    In other words, the status quo is not neutral; if we don’t actively challenge it we’re upholding it. I’m very glad that this journal exists.

  • Lastly, and on a similar note, Libraries, Advocacy and Austerity:
    We should understand, therefore, that there is an ideological and conceptual disconnect between the aims and objectives of government policy and the real work and missions of libraries and librarians. When we seek to advocate for libraries it has to be with a sober recognition of this reality and the implications of this very clear policy agenda from the government.
    (...)
    Further problems arise from the view of certain prominent sections of our profession regarding the desirability of “neutrality” with regard to how we engage and interact with decision makers and the political sphere in which we seek to work. This, to me, is a naive and foolish stance to take, ESPECIALLY in the present political climate. The policies of government are not benign or neutral, and at a certain point (one far back in the game as far as I am concerned) we CANNOT attempt to deal with what is happening as though neutrality is possible. As I have said previously in other writings, quoting Desmond Tutu, to be “neutral” in situations of injustice is in fact to side with the oppressor. We should also acknowledge that this isn’t just about libraries. The Austerity Agenda is punitively targeting and removing services that should support the weakest, the sickest, the poorest and those least able to fend for themselves in our society. These are often also the people who need and use library services the most. There are real people with real lives who are having the support mechanisms to sustain them taken away piece by piece. In this dystopian vision of “no such thing as society” that the neoliberal ideal seeks to impose, I, for one, do NOT wish to be “aligning” myself, or the work I and my colleagues might do, with this toxic and anti-human agenda, or help to facilitate it.
    There are worrying times ahead. I’ll be back tomorrow with something a bit more cheerful, I promise.

20 comments:

  1. You might also like Progressive Librarian. I haven't read it in years, but there are archives online, here: http://www.progressivelibrariansguild.org/PL_Jnl/jnl_contents.shtml

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  2. Table of contents for the latest issue:

    "BRAVERMAN ESSAY

    Deconstructing the “Books for Boys” Discourse by Denise Scott, page 115"

    :D

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  3. Love the librarian post; I'm definitely sharing it with the librarians at my school. Glad you are making a positive change of scenery!

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    1. It's still a long way away, but anticipation helps anyway :)

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  4. Comics are basically all I have read this year. Including the ones in your picture!

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  5. My comment was eaten. :(
    Let's try again.
    Thanks for the link about the title of Trigger Warning. I did, of course, buy the book. And I was hoping that his introduction would take away the yucky feeling I had about the title, but it didn't. This essay so aptly put into words all the muddled thoughts I had into a clear explanation. That's something that you do for me all the time.
    *lots of hugs, for lots of reasons*

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    1. *hugs back, also for reasons*

      I read the introduction when it was first posted online and yeah, it didn't make anything better. It was good to see my thoughts articulated so well.

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  6. LOVE those quotes you shared at the end. Also congrats on Edinburgh and SUFJAN STEVENS OH MY GOD!! That sounds absolutely amazing, and I'm incredibly jealous. I hope you have a great time there and that things look up before then too!
    Looking forward to seeing your posts about comics. They're something I want to get more into in the future!

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    1. Thank you - I'm sure I will :D

      I'll do my best to get those posts written - in the meantime, do you know Memory at In the Forest of Stories? She's my guide to all things comics.

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    2. I do not, but I'll check her out. Thanks!

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  7. Having heard professors scoff at the idea of trigger warnings, I find it alarming that at least one feminist objects to Gaiman's "appropriation" of the term. Two very sharply delineated sides are emerging on this issue, and neither one is listening to the other.

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    1. I don't know; I don't feel at all like I'm on a sharply delineated side. Neil Gaiman is very important to me. I disagree with him on this. One thing doesn't change the other, but it also doesn't make me feel like I can't talk about this (which I probably would have felt a few years ago, to be honest). Jenny's comment below sums up my feelings well - I also prefer "content note" over "trigger warning", and I think it's possible to express your discomfort or ambiguity towards trigger warnings in interesting and useful ways - Roxane Gay does it really well in Bad Feminist, for example. But I too felt that his essay sets up a straw man, and it conflates different things that we'd probably be better off discussing separately. And because of this I feel that it sets back the conversation rather than advancing it, because it makes it all the more likely that people will use the same terms to talk about entirely different things and misunderstand each other all the time.

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    2. Sounds like I need to read Roxane Gay. What I've heard a lot of is people using the same terms to talk about entirely different things. Once I proposed a definition to make a distinction, but the profs rolled right over me in their "righteous indignation."

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  8. The Wire! I love The Wire! Are you enjoying it?

    I liked the article about the title of Gaiman's collection. I don't love it either, for many of the reasons the article's author said. I'm with the author on not being wild about trigger warnings ("content note" is a description I like better, because it suggests fragility less and curation more -- I'm not triggered by stories about violent rape, but some days (most days) I will choose not to read about it), and I still don't love the straw man idea of a trigger warning that Gaiman's introduction sets up.

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    1. I am! I really, really am! People told me it was hard to get into and I went in expecting that (probably also because when I tried a few years ago I was too sad for something so dark and ended up watching Gilmore Girls instead). However, this time it sucked me in in no time at all. I can't wait for M to come back to we can resume watching :D

      And yes, that's exactly what I thought of the intro, even though I too personal lean towards "content note".

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  9. I'm rewatching and onward-watching "The Wire" just now too. It's wonderful when you have shelved a show/book and then rediscover it later, when the timing is right and you can, finally, connect with it the way that you had hoped to initially. Glad to hear that you are finding pleasures on- and off-line which are helping to balance the challenges of the everyday; I've enjoyed the peeks you've included here.

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Thank you so much for taking the time to comment - interaction is one of my favourite things about blogging and a huge part of what keeps me going.