Can This Little Free Library Be Saved?

imageCan this Little Free Library be saved?

It’s so-o-o-o cute. Why does it need saving?

Because the book selection is  awful!

imageI love pop culture. I read mysteries and watch sitcoms.   But why go to the trouble of putting a Little Free Library bookcase-on-a-stick in your front yard if the best you can offer is Carl Hiassen, Jonathan Kellerman, or V. C. Andrews?

So this is what people read, we say as we inspect the LFLs we so admired when they started.

The populist LFL trend began in 2009 in Hudson, Wisconsin.  Todd Bol built a small bookcase in the shape of a one-room schoolhouse and stuck it in his yard with a sign saying “Free Book Exchange.” People loved it and built their own and there are, according to the LFL website, as of January 2016,  36,000 Little Free Libraries registered in the U.S. and in 40 other countries.


A very nice LFL!

But is it really a movement?  No, it’s one of those things people put in their yard and forget about. But why not use it to raise the level of reading?  Book clubs,  literacy organizations, and political discussion groups could sponsor LFLs.  Liberal hipsters formed co-ops and groups in the ’60s and ’70s to discuss and promote collective knowledge: our non-physical LFLs contained Doris Lessing’s Martha Quest books, Thoreau’s Walden, The Diaries of Anais Nin, Our Bodies, Ourselves, The Population Bomb, Brecht,  Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Sexual Politics, books on Dadaism, and Dune.   Today, everybody has a voice and a Facebook page (she says, while blogging), but the internet absurdly has promoted the concept that all literature is equal.  When Jackie Collins died, our library had a display of her books.  The Library of Congress classifies Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant as fantasy and Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries as a mystery.  (That’s where you’ll find them at our public library.)  The few remaining newspaper book pages pander to the masses with interviews with Danielle Steel and reviews of rock memoirs. And by the way, rock memoirs are ghosted, are they not, so why review them? The few I’ve skimmed set the bar for bad writing.

In a stunning article in The Millions, “The Open Refrigerator,” Gerald Howard, an editor at Doubleday, discusses the changes in the now corporate culture of publishing.  He writes about the history of the publication and decline of sales of Thomas Mann’s books in the U.S.

Sadly, The Magic Mountain, once a fixture of every middlebrow household’s bookshelf, has fallen off sharply in its sales and cultural currency, as has the rest of Mann’s oeuvre.  He and it are too forbidding, demanding, and German for contemporary tastes.

It’s true.  Foreign language departments are closing, the LFLS display bad books, God knows what Book Page editors are up to these days…

If I’m sounding like Carrie Matheson in Homeland, it’s because I just watched Season 4 on DVD!

To be honest, the LFLs do not do a brisk job in moving books, so why do I care?

You Couldn’t Pay Me to… and Milk Duds at the Opera

Ellen has to prep for her dates with the brilliant British guy she meets at a Kandinsky

Ellen meets a very cultured professor  at the art museum.  He knows EVERYTHING.

Okay, I admit I like culture.  But I couldn’t get tickets to see Benedict Cumberbatch in Hamlet.

Am I in London?

No, so it hardly matters.

So what do we do in the Midwest for fun?

I pretend to shop at the mall like other women, but usually just stop at the bookstore.

And during the long, long, long harrowing winter nights when the wolves are howling at the door, etc,  I read Sophocles in Greek and Plautus in Latin. That’s theater, isn’t it?   If you study classics for seven years and then teach it for seven more (or more), it’s a snap.

But there are so many subjects I know little about.

And so I was laughing my head off over an episode of Ellen, the ’90s  sitcom starring Ellen DeGeneres.  In “Ellen’s Improvement” (Season 2, Episode 13), she decides to improve herself after she and her friends miss all the questions on Jeopardy.  Perturbed that she didn’t know who Kandinsky was,  she reads a book about him.

.Then she drags Adam and Paige to a museum.

Paige:   “I don’t get art.”

Ellen:  “You’ve gotta give it time.”

Paige:  “No, my mom said if it doesn’t go with the drapes it’s not worth having”

Ellen:  “Yes, this $300 million dollar Kandinsky would clash with her ceramic clown collection.”

Okay, that’s funny.  But it’s even funnier when she meets a UCLA professor from England and they have an arty chat.  Then she has to prep for her dates with him, until she introduces him to her world of watching TV on “Melrose Place” night.   Heather Locklear reminds him of Lady Macbeth.

That is my nightmare.  I love art museums but pray I don’t have to talk about art.  I have had many a trite conversation with friends who know the phrase, “Ah, the colors.”  Perhaps I’ll read a few chapters in my Sister Wendy art history book and learn a new phrase before I rush off to that Sargent exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

I am so bored by opera that I laughed hysterically when Ellen falls asleep and her friend Adam throws a milk dud at the woman singing Madame Butterfly.

I’m sorry, but it’s just so funny!

And so I must, like Ellen, take a crash course in culture.


 Hamlet, because Benedict Cumberbatch is stunned that I’m missing his performance.  (My last Hamlet was  Paul Gross at Stratford, Ontario, 2000.)

Julian Barnes’s Keeping an Eye Open:  Essays on Art. Actually, I do want to read this.

The Amazon sample of Evan Baker’s From the Score to the Stage: An Illustrated History of Continental Opera Production and Staging.  (Just the sample!)

Crafting with Cat Hair by Kaori Tsutaya. (But it is art?  No, I’m kidding.)

Mindy Kaling’s Why Not Me?   (She’s funny.)

Chrissie Hynde’s Reckless: My Life As a Pretender  (She is a stunning rocker; rock is art; ergo, rock, scissors, paper.)

The Penguin Book of Witches, ed. by Katherine Howe.  Halloween is coming!  And I might have to talk about witchery!  And I’ve been to Salem!  Diane Purkiss, author of The Witch in History: Early modern and twentieth century representations, said in the TLS  that Howe’s anthology of witchcraft was  too American.  Good, I’m Howe’s audience!  (Howe is also a very good novelist.)

The Age of Movies: Selected Writings of Pauline Kael (Library of America).  If you read Kael’s brilliant movie reviews in the ’70s and ’80s in The New Yorker, you know how outrageous she was.

So what’s on your list?