Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Book Meme 2: Mutation! (ER 4)

This installment of the book meme is dedicated to the residents of Hamden, Mass, who just lost their public library because too few of them were willing to chip in the tax money to fund it. Of all the Republican attacks on the public sphere, I find the insults to the nation's information infrastructure the most galling. They aren't the most damaging result of the refusal to fund the public good, but they really honk me off.

In honor of those residents of Hamden, Mass, who like to read and were willing to pay to support a culture literacy in their community, I introduce this mutation to the book meme. Where once we had last book purchased, we now have:

Last Book I Checked Out of the Library
Maienschein, Jane. 2003. Whose view of life? embryos, cloning, and stem cells. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
I can't say much about this book, because I just picked it up the other day. Maienschein is one of the great historians of biology. Her book looks at current debates over reproductive and genetic technologies from the perspective of the history of embryology. I've been emailing back and forth with a grad student at Indiana University about the design of her bioethics course, which includes this book. My instinctive concern is that it will be pitched too high for her students, but we'll see.

Well, Maienschien's book did not come from the public library, but from my university's research library. The last book we got out of the public library was *Too Big to Dance* by Doug and Sarah Anderson. Once you have children, the public library becomes a very big deal again. First of all, its a place to take the kids that's air conditioned and has lots of fun books. Second, little kids need a lot of books. They want you to read to them constantly, and even the best children's books get old quick at the rate you chew through them. There is really no way to raise a literate child without the public library to provide a steady cycle of books.

*Too Big to Dance* is kinda lame, though. The art is passable and the verse is wretched. I can't abide crappy writing for children. So many people who put out children's art know that the kids are not discriminating and most of the adults don't care, so they don't bother to write. The focus is on licensing the right characters--Dora, Thomas the Tank Engine, Bob the Builder--the characters are inoffensive, but why bother?

I say this as someone who has a Dr. Seuss character tattooed on his arm.

Last Book I Read:

Well, what do you mean by read? I have a stack of books on my desk that I'm plowing through to see what will be good for my class on "Environmental Ethics East and West." I've read little bits of each one. I start reading an essay from *Nature in Asian Traditions of Thought,* then I have a thought about the course. I type a few notes into a word doc where I am collecting notes. Then I think I should check out what is in *Buddhism and Ecology.* I surf a little. Then start on Chapter 5 of *Buddhism, Virtue and Environment.*

This isn't reading; it's text-based ADD. The whole reason I started blogging about reading was to vent my dissatisfaction with this way of relating to books. I did, though, get the chance to really read a book last week. I can't identify the book, because it might compromise the secret identity of a popular blogger. I'll call the book "A Little Book of Nature Poetry" by SwampWoman the BloggyFriend. It's short: I could read it in one sitting, on the back porch, on a sunny day. It has a narrative. It features a dialogue between two people and two landscapes. It has sensation and temptation. I wanted to read a book well that day, and the book I found was well read. But will I ever meet SwampWoman the BloggyFriend in person?

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