Showing posts with label books. Show all posts
Showing posts with label books. Show all posts


The Power of Sustained Reading in an Age of Distraction

In today's digital world, we are bombarded with information from all sides. A tweet here, a blog post there, or perhaps a quick audio snippet from a podcast. But when was the last time you truly committed to an author's work, something that demanded more than a mere few minutes of your attention? This is what I pondered upon recently in a conversation with a former student. 
Concept Art "Reading is Essential, Children,"
made by one of my Tenth Graders.

The Definition of 'Book'

One of my former students said to me, when I told them what they had been reading. "Why does it have to be a book?" He meant that he did a lot of reading, he thought. Just not "books." When we talk about books, what often comes to mind is a traditional, bound, printed matter that you purchase or borrow. However, a book can be so much more. A book can be an ebook, an audiobook, a text message series, or even a PDF. It doesn't have to be a lengthy piece; it just needs to offer a sustained treatment of a subject or a narrative, with a beginning, middle, and end. 

The Digital Era and Sustained Reading

The digital age has unquestionably expanded our avenues for consuming content. From TikTok videos and YouTube shorts to tweets and social media posts, we live in a fast-paced, internet-driven world. While these platforms offer unique and engaging content, they often don't require long-term engagement from the audience.

Research indicates that reading for pleasure has declined among young people. Studies by the National Center for Education Statistics support the notion that not only are kids reading less for enjoyment, but this trend extends to individuals under the age of 55 as well. However, it's not entirely fair to place the blame solely on technology and mass media.

One contributing factor could be the way reading is taught in schools, particularly over the last few decades. English and Reading teachers are frequently under pressure to adhere to standardized curricula that focus heavily on skill development, often at the expense of fostering a love for reading.


Revitalizing High School Reading Programs: Diversifying Book Selections for Engaged Learning

The author sits by a mountain stream and reads and writes for pleasure.
Read and write for pleasure.
For the past three years, I’ve had the honor of leading the summer reading program at my school. This experience has provided valuable insights into creating engaging and educational reading experiences for teenagers during the summer. Additionally, I’ve developed reading programs for winter breaks and fostered independent reading to expose my students to a wide variety of books.

My journey began with the recognition that all texts, whether from textbooks or prescribed curricula, have their own historical and cultural significance. While I enjoy teaching classics like “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “Romeo and Juliet,” “The Pearl” by John Steinbeck, or “The Great Gatsby,” I’ve discovered that a wealth of rich, layered texts can open students’ eyes to different perspectives.

For instance, this year I taught “Upstate” by Kalisha Buckhanon, a contemporary author. The novel explores the lives of a young couple in Harlem, with the male protagonist being wrongfully accused and imprisoned. The narrative unfolds through their exchanged letters over several years. My students found this an enlightening experience, leading to discussions on love, personal transformation, and social issues.

Moreover, I’ve been inspired by the work of Gholdy Muhammad, who emphasizes the need for literature to represent diverse identities and intellects. Such texts can challenge ingrained beliefs or ask probing questions. An example is Octavia E. Butler’s “Kindred,” a novel I taught this year. To my delight, one of my students informed me that a TV series based on the book has aired on HBO, demonstrating its contemporary relevance.

Through these experiences, I’ve learned about the historical context of high school reading lists and explored strategies, tips, and theories to expand literacy. I’m excited to bring this knowledge and experience into the 2023-2024 academic year.

Let me know what books you love to read with adolescent learners, either for pleasure, as an anchor or mentor text, or for independent reading.


Doing and Being Well: Summer Reading Campaign

In this post, I outline a Summer reading campaign I designed for middle and high schoolers to use that promotes the concept of "doing and being well"!
Take a Break for Summer and Read a Book
Summer is finally here, and for many of us, that means taking a well-deserved break from the demands of school or work. However, even though the academic year has ended, we should continue learning and growing. Reading is one of the best ways to expand our minds and stay engaged during the summer.

Fortunately, many schools and libraries recognize the importance of summer reading and publish campaigns to promote it. However, not all summer reading lists are created equal. If you're looking for a summer reading campaign designed to engage and challenge students while supporting their critical thinking skills, look no further than this comprehensive campaign created by a thoughtful educator.

Design an Immersive Campaign that Provides Plenty of Resources
Create an easy-to-read newsletter and poster
to promote your reading initiative.

The campaign includes various materials to keep readers engaged and motivated throughout the summer. These include editable files, a book review Google form that make it easy to customize the campaign to fit your needs, and a Summer Reading Book List Poster highlighting a range of titles specifically chosen to address students' identity, skills, intellect, and criticality.

In addition to the book list, the campaign includes a "One Book" project focusing on Sean Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens, a popular and engaging book that teaches valuable life skills that apply to students of all ages. The campaign also features grade-level books specifically chosen to engage students at different levels of reading ability, from "Heroes, Gods, and Monsters" for 7th graders to "How to Read Literature Like a Professor" for 12th graders.

Summer Reading Project Options
One of the standout features of this summer reading campaign is the inclusion of Summer Reading Project Options and Rubrics. These eight different project options provide students with various creative ways to engage with the books they are reading, from creating a graphic novel to producing a podcast. The accompanying rubrics ensure that students are held to high academic standards and receive valuable feedback and grades for their efforts.

Finally, the campaign includes a bibliography with links to all the books mentioned in the campaign and additional resources to complement the theme of being and doing well. This comprehensive and thoughtful campaign provides everything you need to promote summer reading and keep students engaged and motivated throughout the summer months.

But why is summer reading so important, anyway? 
Google Forms offers a compelling way to collect student work.
Research has shown that students who don't read during the summer can lose up to three months of reading progress, leading to a "summer slide" that can set them back academically when they return to school in the fall. Reading during the summer helps students maintain their reading skills and stay engaged with learning, even when they're not in the classroom.

But summer reading isn't just important for academic reasons. Reading can also be a valuable source of pleasure and relaxation during the summer months, helping to reduce stress and promote mental health. Whether reading for pleasure or for academic purposes, summer reading is a great way to stay engaged and continue learning throughout the summer.

In conclusion, if you're looking for a summer reading campaign designed to engage and challenge students while supporting their critical thinking skills, look no further than this comprehensive campaign. With a wide range of resources, including grade-level books, project options, rubrics, and more, this campaign provides everything you need to promote summer reading and keep students engaged and motivated throughout the summer months.
Why not prioritize summer reading this year and encourage your students to keep
learning and growing, even when school is out?
Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh, Twelfth, Higher Education, Adult Education, Homeschooler, Staff, Not Grade Specific -


Library Poster: "Read a Book"

Printable poster from to encourage reading -- Read a book!


Movies That Love The Written Word

In this post, I talk about movies that have a loving relationship to books and to reading.
Pulp Fiction's title is certainly a love letter to a certain kind of book — the dime novel.

Movies That Praise the Power of the Written Word     A teacher friend posted on Facebook that she was looking for movies that praise literature and the power of the written word. Movies based on books that extoll literature — what a nice pairing, and a possible name of a course.
People Suggested a Few Titles 
     People suggested Beauty and the Beast, The Neverending Story, The Hours, Henry Fool, and the Book Thief. A good start. But the post got me thinking. 
Movies based on books are many. 
     I cannot stomach another cinematic example of Great Expectations. Oh, maybe just one more. I love a good Miss Havisham. There is a decent sampling of biopics about writers. Kill Your Darlings is a recent example about the student days of Allen Ginsburg and William Burroughs (and murder to boot). 
Dead Poets' Society
     The casebook example for the movies I am looking for is Dead Poets Society. It's not based on a novel, nor is it fantasy or sci-fi — it is a veritable love song to the merits of reading and the power of poetry. However, I do find beef with its ending (no spoilers). Its original screenplay was written by Tom Schulman and was directed by Peter Weir. 
      Are there any others out there? I am too lazy to compile a list.


A Twelve Year Old Boy's Answer to Conflict

"No more fights, just books." 
— Boy, 12, New York City


Public Libraries Still Matter in the Age of Amazon

Poets House in Battery Park City (Manhattan)
is a good model for how libraries should look and feel.
News flash: libraries have been offering e-books for free long before Amazon started doling out an e-book subscription service. With Amazon’s recent Kindle Unlimited service, readers can access thousands of books for free. The catch? It’s ten dollars a month. But libraries have been offering a similar service for free to patrons for years. Why not more press on libraries? To answer some questions about libraries, free books, and bridging the digital divide, I teamed up with New York University Reference Librarian Ray Pun to discuss how libraries are helping to mind the digital gap. The result is this commentary.
Use It Or Lose It
There's a saying that goes "use it or lose it." It’s an apt reason to keep your brain active, because, you know, you’ll lose it. The analogy applies to why we use libraries and how they’re helping to not only bridge the digital divide but adding more fodder to the trough. If you don’t use books — well — I don’t even want to think about what it would be like to lose it.
Libraries Matter
I have a hunch that people think that since there’s the Internet then libraries don’t matter. It’s just a hunch, but it’s hidden in the comments I get on being a librarian: “You need a degree to do that?” Yes, librarians need a degree to do “that.” Putting aside my rancor for such questions, I think it tells us a little bit about the current cultural zeitgeist and where we’re going.
There's a misconception that if I can Google it then it must be free. While the open Internet is indeed a treasure trove of knowledge, it's also a depository of useless junk. Librarians keep the door open between the open Internet and its mass chaos of information and the stuff that’s behind closed doors.
To give an idea of what I am talking about, take a look at the Internet Public Library. It’s a deceptively simple website, but it does something different that Google does not do. Behind the HTML code and links are a team of librarians who are constantly updating links to provide access to good information. So, if you need to get reputable and accurate sources you could Google it, but knowing that a team of information specialists curate and cull the “good stuff” makes the Internet Public Library, a unique place.
Knowledge Deserves To Be Free
We tend to think of libraries as brick and mortar buildings that house books, and while this is true, the concept of “the library” is less about locking knowledge up in a safe deposit box, and more about the free dissemination of ideas. The word free is cheap, and I do not mean to suggest that “free” equates with “worthless.”
Libraries are free in the sense that they keep us as a community free from all the nasty stuff that comes from not being free. What would it look like to live in the tyranny of a library-less world? I’d say it would be rather gloomy. And not too pretty.
We might think, “I already own an iPad, and my house has enough books, so why should I bother about using the library?” The logic that stipulates freedom with “I already have that” is the logic that one day could threaten the very concept libraries embody — equal access to knowledge. I use knowledge in the broadest sense of the term. Knowledge cannot be confined by a book, iPad, or even Google’s vast search engine. Yet -- not everyone owns an iPad. And while according to an April 2014 Pew Research study, 87% of adults have access to the Internet, it isn’t 100%. Some libraries have started to mend the gap by lending out tablets such as iPads to people, library users, and complete strangers with library cards! Other institutions such as the New York Public Library are experimenting with a new service: lending portable MiFi Hotspot devices to underserved youth and communities by allowing them to have Internet access outside of the library hours.
Knowledge is bound up with community. Knowledge is supposed to be shareable, and the access we enjoy through our libraries is only as free as we struggle for its freedom. That’s why libraries, even though they are strapped with mounting operational costs and the threat of being cut off from state, local, and federal funding, continue to innovate, to continue to bridge the digital divide. For example, the simple innovation of providing MiFi devices to users who cannot access library services during opening hours closes the gap a little bit. Or loaning out iPads and laptops to users who otherwise cannot afford these gateways to knowledge.
Support Libraries
Support your public library, starting today and in numerous ways: whether it is with monetary or book donations, paying off your library fines or writing to your state and local assembly person about why your library is important to you and your community. You need to stand up for your library because you are standing up for your community. When you keep visiting your libraries, it brings up their “public services metrics” or in layman’s terms, the “headcount” reader goes up, which translates into more resources libraries can roll out for public use. Keeping the building filled with people who use it is good for the library. They can then report to their constituents about the increases of public users in their libraries on a quarterly basis.
I'll End With A Story
It reminds me of a story a friend of mine told me that I thought reflects what libraries do. When he was a teenager, he lived in a small town in South Louisiana with a local municipal public library. He went to the library in the Summer to find a book he wanted to read. He told me, “I don’t remember who told me about the book, but it was called Birdy by William Wharton.” The library did not have it nor did any of the local branches, so the librarian looked at him with a smile on her face and said, “Let’s do an interlibrary loan.” He told me that he didn’t know what an interlibrary loan was, but it sounded neat. “She had me fill out a form — and mind you; this was before the Internet was all the rage,” he said. “In a few weeks, the book arrived from the State Library, and I was able to read the book. I had no idea such a small miracle was possible.” For him, it was like Christmas in July; he’s now a writer and teaches philosophy. Now that ninety percent of all libraries in the U.S. loan out e-books, interlibrary loan looks like an antiquated version of lending, but most libraries still have it and it’s the most thanked-for feature of public libraries by patrons.
Librarians intrinsically know the value of libraries. We just don’t talk about it enough. Let’s spread the word. A call to action: use it and don’t lose it — for the present and future lovers of knowledge out there. Including me. And you. All of us. You can still subscribe to Kindle Unlimited if you want, but check out the library too.
By Greig Roselli (with Ray Pun)

N.B.: The above article is a reprint from the same LinkedIn Pulse article.
Image Source: Poets House


Public Service Announcement: Read A G*Damn Book!


Re: B*tches in Bookshops (a Jay Z/Kanye West parody)

-Performed by La Shea Delaney (@lashea_delaney) & Annabelle Quezada (@annabelleqv) -Director / Producer / Songwriter - Annabelle Quezada


Why the Scarecrow is Boss (Even Though He Doesn't Have a Brain)

Did you know that in the original Oz books, the Scarecrow is named the ruler of Oz?

How Can You Talk If You Haven't A Brain?
In the original novels by L. Frank Baum, even though the Scarecrow lacks a brain, he is named Ruler of Oz! Take that Dorothy, and your little dog too. In the classic 1939 MGM movie he gets an honorary degree from the Wizard, and in the 1978 Michael Jackson version, his genius is in the song “You Can’t Win” where he reminds us “to refuel our brains.” I love a guy with no brains.
image source (GIF): pandawhale


On Compulsive Readers: A Response to Joe Queenan's Article "My 6,128 Favorite Books"

William Adolphe Bouguereau, La leçon difficile, 1885
I read
a piece by Joe Queenan in the Wall Street Journal on compulsive readers. It prompted me to write about compulsion in reading.

    Compulsive readers are not plagued by the mantra "I have no time to read." We read in the interstitial spaces, before work, before feeding the baby, after dinner, and in between lovemaking. I am reading White Noise by Don DeLillo before work, I will read the poetry of William Blake to my mewling baby, and in between lovemaking perhaps I will read out loud to my lover selections from Umberto Eco's Infinity of Lists. It's true we don't read because it helps us. Or makes us smarter. Or gives us further insight into the problem of reality. Reading is a mental condition. We read because we are crazy. It should be listed as a mental disorder in the DSM-IV.

Reading in Place 

    I remember reading The Catcher in the Rye on the back porch of my Aunt Ida's house. I was a teenager bored with the holidays so I read the seminal text of post-war American adolescence while my cousins rode down the tree-lined block in their go-carts. I read all sixteen of L. Frank Baum's Wizard of OZ books (and most of the forty written after Baum's death) in my walk-in bedroom closet in Mandeville, Louisiana. My brother thought I must have been masturbating. He would bang on the closet door. "What are you doing in there?" "I'm reading. Leave me alone!" The compulsive reader demands his privacy. We are labeled anti-social, lumped together with the onanists, misanthropes, and other creeps. I read Douglas Brinkley's book about Katrina in a pub on late Saturday night and some drunken dude was flabbergasted. He sat next to me and heckled me about why I was reading and not socializing. I thought the answer to his question was because I like to read. But I realized I had a mental condition. I just read because it was a compulsion. When I was a busboy for an after-school job in High School I was remonstrated by the fry cook for reading in the walk-in freezer. So I moved to the cracker boxes and read there.

Reading is a Mental Illness

 We compulsive readers, I agree, are not working with a full deck. We read to ourselves when we otherwise should be engaged. I read Lolita in Jerusalem on a religious field trip to the Holy Land for Easter in 2000. The priest who led the trip caught me reading about Humbert Humbert and said, "Hmmmm. Not spiritual reading but is it interesting?" He wanted a reason why I would read Nabokov's novel about a beguiling young tween on a great American road trip with a middle-aged man when I should have been focused on the sorrowful mysteries of Christ. But, I told him, I had already read Thomas a Kempis's Imitation of Christ. It was onto other things. I read the Sickness Unto Death while at the graveyard of Kierkegaard which was funny because Kierkegaard's name means churchyard in Danish. I read the Moviegoer by Walker Percy in the college library at the Catholic University of Leuven. Native Son was read during a road trip that included seventeen states. I had completed college that year and my traveling companion was a Roman Catholic priest. I read Patriot Games in my seventh grade Louisiana History class while Mrs. Docker went on about the history of king cakes and Mardi Gras beads. I am not even sure how many books I read in my parent's van during family vacations. Jack Prelutsky, Shel Silverstein, Avi, Madeleine L'Engle. At first, I became dizzy while reading in a car but after a while, I adjusted to the bumps and screams, taunts from my brothers.

Where Reading is Inappropriate

     Now I read in planes, cars, closets, cubicles. It is true it is a tad bit socially inappropriate to read a book in public. Reading a book at the dinner table made my father angry. I read the Duino Elegies in New Orleans in 2005 waiting for the streetcar. A truck pulled up and two college kids cursed me out. "Fucking faggot. Reading a fucking book!" What was it about Rainer Maria Rilke that freaked them out? I imagine it is a queer thing to do. Read. I learned about sex from books. On the shelf was a book I remember titled, Serious Questions About Sex Answered. I don't remember much about the answers. We have clandestine moments in reading. I read Gore Vidal's the City and the Pillar in secret at the back table of the library. It was the first novel I remember reading about coming out. Working as a page one summer I shelved a book on nudist colonies so many times I realized people were taking it off the shelf and after a quick look putting it back on a shelf, no concern for where it belonged. I finally sat down and read the book myself. The photographs were black and white, grainy, of upper middle-class white people doing all sorts of everyday activities in the nude. Nothing exciting.

Etiology of an Incurable Habit

     I think my compulsive reading habit started in kindergarten. On the first day, Mrs. Robicheaux gave us our reading book and I read the last story about a red fire engine during nap time. The teacher caught me reading the book and she said, "Don't read that story. We have not gotten to it yet." It was a lot more interesting to read the fire engine story than to sit on the floor and share my blocks with Skylar who was not that nice and faintly smelled of tomato soup. I wish I could remember the name of reader. Skylar teaches Geometry at a private Catholic high school in southern Louisiana. I think he is the assistant coach for the football team.

Books are Not Sacred Objects

    I don't think books are sacred objects. I will read a scroll, a web log, a typed out letter, a found piece of tissue paper with scrawl on or an epub file of Of Mice and Men. To me the medium doesn't matter. A symptom of the compulsive reader is to read whatever is in front of you. Yes, we like to discriminate -- and the more books you read -- the more you know what to avoid. I don't read Harlequin Romances nor do I read much biography or memoir -- unless the subject is someone I am intensely interested in, like Virginia Woolf, Steve Jobs, or a biography of someone I am currently reading a lot of at a given time -- or someone who is not an artist, writer, or someone who doesn't express themselves too much. A biography of a Jewish Hasidic woman in Crown Heights is something I would read.
    I think it is a misconception that people who are compulsive readers read a lot to appear smart. Joe Queenan argues people who read vast amounts of books do so because they are ultimately dissatisfied customers. They read because they are dissatisfied with reality. I think this is partly true. It is perhaps too neat, however, to divide reality into those who read compulsively and those who don't -- as if those who are dissatisfied bury their dissatisfaction in a big, fat nineteenth-century novel. People who are dissatisfied don't all commit themselves to compulsive reading. People who read voluminous amounts of literature find pleasure in what they find in books. Even badly written books. It is not an escape from reality but rather reality is somehow represented through a different lens than we get through our bone-worn senses. To engage reality is to read.

Reading and the Concern with Reality

    I think Orhan Pamuk said correctly, we find places to read, and for him, to write, as well as to read, because not to do so would be unbearable. Reading is an extension of being in the world. We read not so we can escape reality but we find in reading an extension of what we always already are coming to know. I postulate the first "book" ever written was a grocery list. Or maybe it was a tax roll. Then we went on to carve epigrams into blocks of stones, then great epics, and now we post blogs. This thing called writing and reading what we write is something we have been doing for over six thousand years. The painter who paints feels disconnected without her paintbrush. Take away the iPod buds from the music addict and they feel discomfited. For readers engagement with a book is engagement with the world. Since we carved cuneiform into soft clay, reality has not been the same since. Perhaps there was once an ancient Sumerian, now forgotten, who compulsively read every scroll, every carving, every piece of etching he could consume. Asked why, he just shrugged and went onto to find his next unread carved block.
     It is my hypothesis that those who read compulsively are better equipped to face reality and its vicissitudes -- as well as recognize its triumphs and pleasures. I really don't think I compulsively read because I feel it will make me a better person or make me more intelligent. Those might be healthy byproducts. I read Jane Eyre in the tenth grade not just because it was assigned by the teacher but I thought maybe the character of Jane had something to say to me. I read because I wanted to listen to Jane. And in the first pages she is reading. A reader reading about a character reading. Mise en abyme -- mirrors facing mirrors. I read about Jane Eyre who in turn was reading a story that was speaking to her and so on and so.
     When I go home for the holidays my mother still has my old bookshelves in my bedroom that she has converted into her office. I am surprised I still own books that I have not yet liberated. They still sit there, mementos of books I read or books I bought but never got around to reading. When I go home I have a sudden nostalgia for those unread books. I have gotten into the habit of pocketing one or two when I visit. I take them back with me. Sometimes I read them. Or sell them back to get a new book. I still have my set of the Chronicles of Narnia at my mother's house. The copies are browned and each one has my sixth-grade scrawl inscribed on the frontispiece. I re-read the first few pages of the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I was struck again by Mr. Tumnus, just as I was struck by him when I read the book as a child. Mr. Tumnus has a shelf full of books. Is Man a Myth? reads one of his titles. I would want to read that book, a book written by a fantastical creature about other fantastical creature.
    People think we read lots of books, those of us so inflicted because we want to have knowledge of everything. I don't think I exist in Borges's Library of Babel where the sole motivation is to find the Ur-Book, the book that will unlock the mysteries of everything and give a unified theory of life, the universe and everything. There are plenty of books in Borges's Library, an infinite library with every possible configuration of words splayed out in an infinite enclosure of an infinite set of hexagonal rooms. No monkies need to slam on keys to potentially pound out at some unspecified time the complete works of Shakespeare. I read because I am like the monkey pounding away aimlessly at the keys. I read knowing that I am slogging through the muck, and perhaps there is the hope that I will come across a diamond in the rough. Sometimes I read crap and I then I read some more crap. To find a book that moves the spirit, that moves the mind, for example, Marilyn Robinson's Home or Plato's Phaedo, to name such a few, or the crown of my book pile, those books I would keep with me on a trip to a desert island. Logophiles, bibliophiles, those lovers of morphemes strung together like beads of delicious taste morsels -- we sing the songs we hope to find in the flowing pages of books, kindles, iBooks, pages. I am Mr. Tumnus reading Is Mr. Tumnus a Myth? who in turn is reading Is Man a Myth?, seated on a weather-worn armchair, sipping tea, in the interstitial spaces of a reading life.

image credit: Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905) - The Difficult Lesson (1884)


Interactive Winnie the Pooh

 What we wish our Kindle could do . . .
Here's what I call an interactive book


A Few Favorites: Books, Instant Books, and Libraries

“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.”  -- Jorge Luis Borges

I had asked my sixth graders, whom I meet faithfully every Saturday to work on writing and reading comprehension, to write an essay about a favorite thing, a wished-for happening, and one place they would like to visit. My hopes? That they would tie the pieces together and craft a five-paragraph essay.

Here's what I wrote as my students composed:
My favorite thing is a book; my wished-for happening is to have any book I ever want or hope to read at my immediate disposal; and my favorite place is a library, of course. It is a miracle of free association that my "three" cohere. I didn't begin it this way. Nor intended it. So, since this is a timed piece of writing, I may as well trust the process.
First, books. Books comfort me. I won't even mention content, for now. The form is important only to the extent that it helps me reach the content. Even a book nestled in the 01000100s of my iPad comforts me. Since purchasing an iPad several months ago, I still find it a delight to load up the Google Books app and add classics from the seemingly endless supply of out-of-copyright books. Lest I deceive you into thinking I only love digital books, let me remind you that I used to have a sizable library which I had to give up when I moved to space-deprived New York City. What is it in a book that is so great? It's the option I have to dip into words, without which, I would be lost in an already feeling-kinda-lost world.

To end the misery of finding an out-of-print gem is a great wished-for happening. Have you ever stumbled upon a book you would like to read but your local library does not have a copy and Amazon's used marketplace lists it at a price more than you are willing to spend? If I had a superpower it would be to summon at my fingertips any text I want to peruse at any time. Imagine Google Books if it were a realized reality.

I agree somewhat with Borges who said paradise is like a library filled with an endless array of books. I should qualify this wish, however. I do not envision a Borgesian library of books filled with every possible letter combination. To me, this would be hell. To search through endless mismarked copies of Hamlet in the hopes of finding the ur-text is a maddening enterprise, which is why Borges has a few of his library travelers sprawled on the floor dead  dead of exhaustion? Dead after searching aimlessly for an ur-text. No. Sir. Not that my paradisaical happy place must have the "great books". It must be replete with Barbara Cartland as well as Homer's lost epics. I prefer a bad book, a good book  even a book like Finnegan's Wake  which is bad and good at the same time.
I'm not sure such a reader exists, or will ever exist.

Certainly, the fantasy I have described here is long in coming. And to think that it could be foreshortened by a dystopian regime akin to Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 is a disastrous thought. I would like to think ideas and philosophy will be continued to be vouchsafed by man's pen -- whether it is n the guise of a keypad or a voice dictation service, doesn't matter. I shiver at the thought that ideas are written only to appease: this would be the Huxley imagined nightmare. The Orwellian nightmare is farcical -- for hasn't Big Brother been shown to be inept? If the Bradbury nightmare is the most plausible then I must add a fourth wish: to hope, beyond hope, that I can memorize, commit, vouchsafe, one book to memory. The problem is I am stuck in the choice. I wouldn't know which to choose; instead, Montag's firemen would find me like they found the madwoman who burned herself up with her cherished books. For me, though, they won't burn me up, instead, they will laugh.
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Story of a Vocation: There and Back Again

A Story from My Fifteen Year Old Self
I was fifteen years old: naive, mischievous and lonely, awkward with my body, my voice ~ and my words - my very being. The gash of Mom and Dad's divorce was still raw; I felt ripped apart inside, hurt and distanced, unsure how to appease the increasing emptiness in the pit of my middle. I read novels in a walk-in-closet. Nicholas, my little brother, would peek in on me and wonder what the hell I was doing! When I wasn't absorbing the back of a cereal box or a Vonnegut, I used my bicycle to broaden my geographical horizons. I befriended a beloved librarian, a resilient French survivor of the guerre mondiale, a cassocked conservative priest and an existential liberal Jew. Those were my comrades. Even, very briefly, a traveling antique salesperson who voyaged in a Volkswagen van became my friend. In between visits with all my friends I took refuge in the church, hugging the venerable wood pew, using my spiritual imagination to conjure some image of a future. I would ask my reluctant mother to bring me to Sunday Eucharist - at first she thought it was a phase, like my recent attempts to collect every matchbox car ever made, then she became more hostile when I told her I wanted to be confirmed. Then I told my family I wanted to be a priest!

A Warm Christmas Fire Was Burning
Maybe it was in those bike rides to confirmation class, or in those angry
battles with my parents about my life, about our life, about freedom. Or with my
great friends, the realization that someone outside your clan can love and accept
you for who you are - you grow to love and accept them, that I realized in a
process (that is still continuing) churning away inside of me like a warm Christmas
fire was the hearth of calling.

Now I teach philosophy and write about art. Is this my new religion?

Learning About Folk's Faith Journey I am interested in people's journey of faith. Where did it lead you? Are you the same "faith" as you were when you were younger? Why or why not?


100 Years at the New York Public Library in the Midst of City Budget Cuts

At the one hundred year exhibit of the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue, there were tours this past weekend of the stacks of the arts and humanities research library, the Stephen. A. Schwartzman building, the one with the iconic lions. The stacks are seven levels divided by catwalks (which also extend outward beneath Bryant Park). The stacks are beautifully hewn cast iron bulwarks donated by Andrew Carnegie. Walking along the catwalk, one can look down and see floor upon floor of sheer "book." To take such a tour stirs the soul and restores hope in humanity. The books are categorized by size (not by Dewey or LC, which are the two most popular category systems in the United States).  
Reading Books in the Rose Reading Room  
To read one of the books in the research collection means filling out a request slip and waiting fifteen minutes for your book to be retrieved by a page who, once it is located on the shelf, sends it up via a Ferris wheel conveyor belt. It is all so mechanically proper and print oriented. The card catalog was scrapped in 1983, but interestingly enough, even though the catalog is digitized now, the library took photographs of every card and bound the images twenty to a page in a printed dictionary catalog of the collection. Why do this? Librarians through the years made notes on cards indicating other sources in the collection to consult and other such marginalia that is beneficial for researchers. The bound dictionary catalog is a snapshot of the collection before it went digital. 
Even With a Glorious Library in Manhattan the Truth is Libraries Still Suffer from Inadequate Funding 
The sad news in the wake of such a glorious centennial celebration is that budget cuts plague public libraries even though library usage is at an all-time high. To advocate for libraries is so desperately needed. Libraries are a public service to be ranked with the necessity of schools, hospitals, fire houses and police stations that make up a viable, literate population. Please advocate for Libraries today.


Little Red Lighthouse Under the Gray Bridge

To get to this Lighthouse, officially called The Jeffrey's Hook lighthouse (which is inoperative but maintained by the New York City Park Service), I took the subway to 168th street (A, C, 1). I walked west on 168th street toward the Hudson. 168th street ends at a psychiatric hospital. Turn right to follow the highway then turn left onto the meandering path which will lead you into Fort Washington Park. There may be an easier way to do this. If you know of one please let me. I figured my way over and under the Henry Hudson expressway and a multitude of other expressways that cut vertically through Manhattan's Westside. Once you get to the Fort Washington Park (follow the signs) the Little Red Lighthouse is easy to find. I did make one wrong turn, though. I climbed up a flight of stairs that brought me to a dead-end walkway alongside an overpass. The trick is to keep walking west. The bright red structure sits under the George Washington Bridge. It's a really fun trek to make on a nice weekend day. Make sure you bring something to eat. There are several picnic tables positioned close by. Watch out for the bikers. On the opposite side of the lighthouse, there is a ramshackle hut built for the security guard who watches over the bridge to make sure no one trespasses. Oh, and if you want to play tennis there are courts nearby to the south. Speaking of the south, the view of Manhattan from the vantage point of the lighthouse's location gives one a great view of Midtown in the distance. The way the island descends southward and widens is evident from this view. Considering the lighthouse is a tender memory from a children's novel (which I never read) attracts attention enough. But even if you don't know the literary connection, I'd say the trip is satisfying on its own.


Setting Up The Scene: A Fight

Misè-en-scene of a too comfortable relationship:

At Baltimore's Enoch Pratt Library, beneath the colored dome, we fought; because we were tired and travel-weary, more comfortable with our ordinary looks and automobiles, than here, in this constant going and coming.


Comic Book Shop in Manhattan: Forbidden Planet

Image result for "forbidden planet" manhattan
Forbidden Planet is a cool shop to browse and window shop. You never know when you'll come across a cool Star Wars action figure or colorful graphic novel. FYI: Management holds your backpack while you browse. Check out the Strand next door. 
Where: on Broadway near Union Square 14th Street (Subway lines: 4, 5, 6, N, Q, R).


Collage Ripped from My Scrapbook: "Hegel's Philosophy of History"

I made the above collage when I was an undergraduate philosophy student at K.U.L. (The Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium), living as a Catholic seminary student at the American College (Amerikaans College) at 100 Namsestraat.

Looking at the above collage starting from the top lefthand corner moving clockwise here are the items:
1. A cutout of an illustration from a book on Hegel's Philosophy of History
2. An Audrey Hepburn First Class postage stamp from the United States Post Office
3. A tag for a GFCI outlet
4. An illustration of a stack of books seated on by what appears to be two magicians in rapt conversation. A third magician seems to be surprised (standing at the bottom)
5. An Andy Warhol First Class postage stamp from the United States Post Office (37 cents)
6. A memento of my many sojourns to the Studio (a movie theater) on the Bondgenotenlaan (the town's main drag) to watch movies. This is a ticket stub for a screening of Bladerunner.


Photo: Library of Babel

Photo of the interior of New York University's Bobst Library - taken from a few floors up.
Being inside the Bobst Library on New York University's campus can feel a little like vertigo - especially if you are looking down.
Bobst Library, NYU
People say walking the upper floors of the Bobst Library  the main college library at New York University surrounding Washington Square Park  grants a feeling of vertigo. It's true. Also, I get a feeling I am inside the infinite library written about in Jorge Borges's short story "The Library of Babel".