From-the-Editors-Desk

Those  Small Momentous Decisions
September 4, 2011

David Leone, brother to BiblioBuffet’s managing editor Nicki Leone, is a reporter for a small town newspaper. As a deeply committed journalist he strives for fairness in all he does, strictly segregating his liberal personal views and political biases from his professional responsibilities to a newspaper in a very conservative community. To do that, he takes care to read all e-mails and e-newsletters he receives from people in the state congress and organizations that write about state government as well as keep up with events in his community via Facebook and other Internet sites.

It enables him to do a difficult job that, he says, has paid off. Keeping his opinions to himself has allowed him to build a reputation as a fair journalist. But it has also cost him. “At times,” he wrote me, “I get internally very demoralized that the people around me think it’s okay to demean ‘the other side’ as if none of those people exist around them, and I have to say nothing. So I figured I’d just give up and ditch the negative influences that were interfering with my real work; there’s plenty of good news to tell even in these trying times.”

To make that choice more real to himself, David wrote a “rant” on his Facebook page as “a step to move me past my [writer’s] block, a start to the healing process, as it were.” It is unusually literate (for a rant) and exceptionally insightful.

I’m putting in my two weeks' notice.

Two weeks to tie up all the loose ends, to unplug the pressures and stressors that make me sick at the end of every week.

Every week I feel sicker. I get through it somehow, then the next week I’m sicker. I get through it somehow and the next week I’m sicker.

I’m sickest right now.

I intend to fire all the friendships which cause me pain. I’ll unsubscribe the e-mails and males and females who deliver nothing but anger and anguish.

I’ll have my own night of long knives for the Facebook friends who mock the liberals and socialists and communists and other-ists who are all me. When you deride, are you aware it’s me you’re deriding? They’re me. It’s me.

Me, and people like me who have our own religion, our own faith, our own beliefs that don’t match mainstream. As if there was any single stream. Nobody’s faith matches another. Nobody’s. Why pretend they do?

If there’s a liberal in the room it’s me. If there’s a bleeding heart it’s me. Remember that next time you feel the need to gnash your teeth in anger at the people you think are ruining this country.

But don’t sweat it, because I’m done with responding to labels with my own measured thoughts. No amount of balance and nuance will ever change a thing. Watching the tide of unchange just makes me sicker.

I’m unsubscribing to all the e-mails which I’ve believed may someday improve my ability to report the news. Like those unbalanced hoarders, who save every snippet they’ve ever read just in case it may come in handy, someway, someday (and never does), I every day read screed after screed from religionists and strategists and publicists and states rightists in the erroneous belief that one day they’ll write something of interest to our readers. It’s never happened yet. Perhaps it will, but I’ll no longer be listening. I’m drowning in a sea of screed. The hoard has toppled down on my head. It hurts. Time to dig out.

Why continue to pour that filth down my throat? Why absorb all that bile, that pain, that pain, when all it does is eat me up from the inside? That sickness is fired. Finishedo. The pink slip is in the mail.

Two weeks’ notice. Two weeks to subtract the junk news, the talking point of the day, the anti-wholesome, anti-Democrat-ic, anti-union, anti-gay, the anti-everything I stand for that makes me proud to be American.

Two weeks to refocus on the core principles of what makes me proud to be a part of a community. Two weeks to get back on track to writing those articles which make others proud to be a part of their community. Two weeks to disconnect the white noise, the low-fidelity whine of agenda-pushing angermongers.

If you don’t see me around it’s because I’ve disconnected, gone offline awhile. I’ve books to read and others to write about. I’ve got photographs to take and others to develop. I’ve friends to meet and new ones to make. There’s family to call. Nephews to reconnect to. Parents to listen to. A woman to share life’s simple joy.

I’m not quitting my job. I’m divorcing my strife.

You have two weeks’ notice.

When I first read this all I could do was sit back in my chair, stunned. Because David expressed with such perfect wording exactly what I have been feeling over the last year.

I have no idea when I changed. It must have been over time, small changes that I didn’t notice until they reached a point to be big enough to make me say “wow.” I grew up in a Democratic family. My father was a member of the union at AT&T until the day he retired. He had watched his engineer father lose his job during the Great Depression with no help. He had seen other men lose not just jobs but families, friends, health, and even their own lives through suicide. I grew up during the “60s” and yes, I took on the politics of liberalism early.

Since those early days I have mellowed considerably, seeing now all the shades of gray that are reality and complexity. I haven’t lost my liberal views on some things but on most issues I tend to stand more in the middle. Or perhaps I should say on a plank of my own making, one with enough flexibility to accommodate the multifactorial aspects of many issues. Sometimes these views lean to “the left,” other times to “the right,” but in all cases they result from my independent thought. I do not apply labels to issues or to people. I try not to generalize. I try to if not understand then at least to listen to those people who hold differing views because I honestly believe, even now, that if they are rational and especially if they are as committed to honesty as I am, that I can learn something.

Like David, however, I find that the trend of anger, of hatred, of abuse and of the humor based in such things these days, while not developed by the Internet at least exacerbated by it. But it’s not just the Internet. There seems to me to be a race to the bottom, that instead of striving to go higher in education and culture and self-respect, too many people are engaged in emulating the worst behaviors and indeed even trying to outdo those.

And like David, I have made the decision to pull inward. I want to populate my life with people who have the values I do. I don’t necessarily mean people with whom I agree but people who have my respect for the ways they interact with others and how they express their views. With respect and intelligence and educated opinions.

As with people I choose my books with that same kind of idea in mind. I want books that educate me, challenge me, and entertain me. But I want them to do it in a respectful way without gratuitous violence and language, without talking down to me, without “pouring filth down my throat” because there is already too much of that in the world today.

I dumped my television more than twenty-one years ago and have not seen a single show or ad since. I restrict my Internet viewing to sites, though I am always open to new ones, that do not “pour filth” down my throat. David, I agree. The bitter anger and the complete disrespect that (even our political leaders use in talking about one another) seems to fuel so much “discussion” these days, especially when cloaked in the detested “LOLs,” eats me up too because there is nothing funny about hate-based humor. I find myself becoming more tired, more stressed, more upset than merely getting a little older warrants if I allow this poison in my life.

What I’d like to do sometimes is shut the world off. But that is a solution far beyond where I am willing to go. I need to still be influential to some, however few, so that instead of simply complaining about others’ actions I can take some of my own. I can teach a child respect by being respectful. I can listen to my neighbor with whom I strongly disagree about the roles of unions and government without feeling any need to dissuade or, more importantly, to mock him. For what purpose would that serve other than only add more anger to the world in general and to my private part of it. It wouldn’t serve any. And I have made a conscious, deliberate choice, like David, to cut myself off from the rising wave of bellicosity that is threatening to permanently alter communications at all levels. I may not and probably will not make a difference to anyone except those in my life, but I go ahead with the decision with head held high. I’m not only divorcing my strife like David, but I am determined to make a difference with my approach where I can. If I do it is less important than that I do do it. Life, after all, is made up of individual units. Us. And one example is far stronger than many complaints.

Upcoming Book Festivals and Fairs:
With September, we enter the beginning of the year’s busiest season for book festivals and fairs. From now through November, I will be listing quite a few each week. At least one will likely be in your area.

Location: Burnsville, North Carolina
Site: Various locations
Festival: Carolina Mountains Literary Festival
Date: September 9-10
This is an unusual festival in that it doesn’t have a specific location nor does it vendor booths. Instead, attendees will find the events—writing workshops; author readings, Q&A sessions; panels; storytelling programs; and bookmaking and papermaking workshops—in galleries, small stores, the Town Center, the library, churches, and other venues within walking distance. This year’s featured authors are Ron Rash and Audrey Niffenegger but about thirty others will be there as well. The schedule is packed full, and it looks like a goodie!

Location: New York, New York
Site: Various locations in the East Village and on the Lower East Side
Festival: LitCrawl New York
Date: September 10, 2011
This uniquely San Francisco lit event is making it to other cities. Combining a bar crawl with literature, the event has three phases: I, which runs from 6:00-6:45 pm; II, which runs from 7:00-7:45 pm, III, which runs from 8:15-9:00 pm, and finally, an After Party, which begins at 9:00 pm and is open to all Lit Crawlers. Each of the phases has several different events at different bars so you can pick and choose which one most interests you.

Location: Rochester, New York
Site: Monroe County Fairgrounds
Festival: Rochester Antiquarian Book Fair
Date: September 10, 2011
From 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, antiquarian book dealers specializing in rare books, prints, ephemera, maps, and photographs will gather to share and sell their wares. Admission is $5, though students with identification will be admitted free. Attendees can enter a raffle to win four tickets to a performance of “Million Dollar Quartet.” In addition, there will be demonstrations of bookbinding and re-binding.

Location: Provo, Utah
Site: University of Utah, Union Plaza
Festival: Utah Festival of Books
Date: September 10, 2011
Nearly twenty authors will be making appearances to talk about and sign their books. Additional events include performances, vendors, literacy activities, guest speakers, cooking demonstrations, book character appearances, and special children’s activities. All of this takes place from 10:00 am to 3:0 pm.

Location: Princeton, New Jersey
Site: Princeton Public Library and Alfred Hones Plaza
Festival: Princeton Children’s Book Festival
Date: September 10, 2011
For children and adults who love children’s books, this festival is an ideal way to spend a day. Between 11:00 am and 4:00 pm, more than fifty authors and illustrators will be on hand to talk about and sign their books. Other events include musical entertainment and a special surprise activity just for the children.

Location: Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Site: Downtown Arts District
Festival: Bookmarks Book Festival
Date: September 10, 2011
Thirty-eight authors, illustrators, storytellers and chefs will present their work in a series of readings, workshops, panel discussion, cooking demonstrations. In addition, there will be interactive activities for both children and teens, with workshops especially for those teens with an interest in writing as well as live entertainment, a variety of food and reading-related exhibitors.

The Pub House:
The Library of America is known for publishing “significant writing in durable and authoritative editions.” What does their writing cover? Everything! Their catalog includes a surprisingly wide variety of genres and authors:

  • Early American History and Founding Fathers; The Civil War; World War II
  • 19th-Century Novels; 19th-Century Stories and Sketches; 19th-Century Essays and Criticism; 19th-Century Poetry
  • 20th-Century Novels (1900-1940); 20th-Century Novels (1941-1999); 20th-Century Stories; 20th-Century Essays and Criticism; 20th-Century Poetry
  • African American Writers; Southern Writers; Women Writers
  • Biography and Memoir; Fantasy, Science Fiction & Horror; Film & Screenplays; Journalism; Letters; Mystery & Crime; Music & Lyrics; Nature Writing; Oratory; Religion & Spirituality; Social Sciences; Theater & Plays; Travel Writing
  • Illustrated Books; Thematic Anthologies

And they are very good. Under Crime Novels, for example, you’ll find American Noir of the 1930s and 1940s. One of six volumes of crime fiction. this collection  features stories of the pulp magazine heyday with its terse, violent style including The Postman Always Rings Twice (1934), They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (1935), Thieves Like Us (1937), The Big Clock (1946), Nightmare Alley (1946), and I Married a Dead Man (1948). The Treasury of American Nature Writing is also a six volume set, but like American Noir, each book in it can be bought individually. One of them, Writings and Drawings by James John Audubon, brings together a comprehensive selections from his natural history volumes, journals, memoirs, and letters and includes sixty-four color plates and several manuscript sketches (some never before published). The 20th-Century Stories collection is massive; among the authors represented are Willa Cather, James Agee, Raymond Chandler, Nora Zeale Huston, Henry James, H.P. Lovecraft, Katherine Anne Porter, Gertrude Stein, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Edith Wharton, and others, some in collections like American Fantastic Tales: Terror and the Uncanny from Poe to Now. The latter is a two-boxed set  that “teems with tales of horror, hauntings, terrifying obsessions and gruesome incursions” offered by authors like Henry James Harlan Ellison Shirley Jackson, Ray Bradbury, Joyce Carol Oates, and more.

Imaging Books & Reading:
This political posters encourages not reading per se but reading one particular book. Do you know which one it is?

Of Interest:
On a Clear Day I can Read Forever is a book blog. Yes, another book blog. But this is one worth reading. Nancy Pate describes herself as a “reader, writer, recovering journalist, book critic for the Orlando Sentinel 1985-2005, when lupus forced me to stop working.” She’s also an a author, part of the mystery writing team that publishes under the name Caroline Cousins.

What I particularly like about this blog is its clear, insightful commentary on books, on her thoughts about types of books, and on related bookish matters like losing her coffee table to her cousin who is offer to graduate school. Not surprisingly, her writing is articulate and simply wonderful.

Until next week, read well, read often and read on!

Lauren

 


 

 
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