Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Meditation on the Choice Not to Read

Yesterday on Tumblr I shared this image:
This :D
(via piratespook) adding the comment "or for not reading!" It seemed sensible to me, from my perspective as a public librarian, that not everyone wants to read. I got some pushback for this position, including a response that said if a person is proud of not reading, if they actively denigrate it, then "F them."

I find it hard to imagine myself being in a situation where someone I'm interacting with is trumpeting their hatred of reading. However, let me stretch my imagination a bit. I'm going to confine my scenario to the adult patrons I help at my job. If I had a patron who volunteered how much he or she hated reading, I would not tell them to fuck off. I would assume that they have good reasons to feel that way, most likely because people in positions of authority like mine have been telling them for most of their lives that they need to read or have to read or that they should be reading something "good" for them.

Some people have learning disabilities that makes it very difficult for them to read. Some people have been systematically taught that reading is a chore that must be completed. Some people just don't like reading AND THAT IS OKAY. I have many, many adult patrons who do not use the library for books. But if I wanted information about the interesting movies that are going to be coming out soon, I know just who I would ask. If I wanted to know one patron's opinion of the best one-hit wonders of the 60s and 70s, he would tell me in a heartbeat. I may read more than 100 books a year, but they know a hell of a lot more than I do about the media they consume.

Modern libraries are about more than books,* they are about providing access to stories--both the stories people want or need to consume, and those they create using the tools we provide them (with their tax dollars). If we limit ourselves to a rigid definition of "read or get the fuck out," we are doing ourselves, and our patrons, a great disservice. Let's not presume to judge any other person's reading, watching, listening, or internet browsing choices.**

The only choices that I am qualified to judge are my own.

There is nothing shameful about choosing not to read.

Meditation Index

*Note: I am not saying that libraries don't need books.
**And while we're at it, let's dispense with the concept of "guilty pleasures"--everyone is entitled to like what they like.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Book Review: The Dark Garden [2007]

A cover of the re-released The Dark Garden promises "If you loved Fifty Shades of Grey, then you'll love this." While this may be true, it won't be because they are similar books. Eden Bradley's 2007 book is yet another caught up in the rebranding craze inspired by 50 Shades. However, it is true that 10% of the sources I consulted for this project considered The Dark Garden a good fit--both male protagonists are named Christian, after all...

Rowan Cassidy is a Mistress at an exclusive BDSM club in Los Angeles. After an abusive experience as a submissive during her college years, Rowan is determined never to let anything out of her control again--yet she's been secretly writing about submissive experiences. When dominant newcomer Christian Thorne catches her eye, she's ready for a change. Christian sees a deep need in Rowan that he wants to explore in a safe space, and he proposes an agreement wherein they will delve into her submissive side over a thirty-day period. Despite her misgivings, Rowan accepts the challenge.

As he patiently guides Rowan toward self-discovery, both Christian and Rowan struggle to avoid developing deeper feelings that might complicate their therapeutic relationship. Christian doesn't want to take advantage of Rowan when they've agreed not to have sex; Rowan keeps getting close to understanding more about herself, but her automatic response is to run. The subplot, which is more overtly concerned with BDSM and is actually rather sweet, involves April--new to the scene--and Decker, who is notorious for his unwillingness to settle with one partner. Their romance provides some much-needed relief from the emotion and angst of Christian and Rowan.

Grade: B-

Despite the fact that the male lead is named Christian and the story explores some aspects of BDSM, The Dark Garden is not much like Fifty Shades of Grey. Rowan's strength and experience masks her uncertainty, and Christian doesn't demonstrate a need to be dominant in all aspects of her life. The thirty-day bet is similar to the conceit of Beautiful Disaster, however, as is the characters' determination not to get together when they clearly want to be together romantically. There are some "posh" elements--Christian and Rowan aren't hurting for money--but there isn't a lot of label name-dropping. In terms of "bondage as a road to healing," I found it similar to (although not as explicit) another book I read for this project, Joey W. Hill's Holding the Cards.

The Dark Garden was a bit of a struggle for me to finish. I got it as a library ebook, though, and had to finish it within fourteen days before it disappeared. I'm not sure I would have made it through if not for April and Decker.