Apologies for the lateness of this week’s installments. I had a bug yesterday that I’m still recovering from today, and I’ve just felt kind of crappy in general. But let’s get back to it, shall we? Without further ado, here are my top three links from the past week:
Jonathan Gourlay for The Morning News: The Day Borders Got the Wobblies
I’ve mentioned before that I used to work at Borders, and that the chain’s liquidation has left me feeling both sad and triumphant. This is the most elegantly written piece by a former Borders employee I’ve ever read that captures both what it felt like to be a cool employee of a cool company, and to feel the harsh chafing of a corporatocracy. A passage that I particularly identified with:
Poor Doug was an immigrant from the land of Blue Light Specials. He was now in charge of a funky bookstore where most of the workers held advanced degrees in esoteric subjects like Marxist Geography and Women’s Studies. How could we tell him that his very presence made us feel bad about ourselves? Not because of anything that he did but because of the fundamental essence of who he was. He was a boss, plain and simple. His K-Mart management style sucked all of the romance out of our bookstore and made us realize that what we really did was push product. You’d think that running the gauntlet of Howard Stern and Michael Crichton displays each day would have clued me in.
And I nodded my head so hard that I was in danger of knocking out a few teeth.
But most notable about this article is the recollection of Borders’ strained relationship with unionization. I came on board some time after the first Borders in Ann Arbor, Michigan had unionized, and I remember being frequently intimidated and threatened. The message was that if management heard of anyone even breathing on a union, they’d get the boot.
If the closing of Borders feels like the end of an era to you – or if you’ve ever worked for the chain – this article is truly a must-read (H/T to the New Yorker).
Robert Lipsyte for NYTimes.com: Boys and Reading: Is There Any Hope?
A recent study shows that boys read much less than girls. Unsurprising. Have you checked out the young adult section at your local Borde–oh wait… (too soon?).
Lots of young adult fiction – dare I say most of it – is geared toward girls, and one can see it by just taking a cursory glance at a stack of YA fiction (most of it is hot fucking pink). Further, boys are less likely to read fiction (which is a shame, in my opinion – I barely read anything but fiction, though, so I’m biased).
And this article? This article pissed me off.
The current surge in children’s literature has been fueled by talented young female novelists fresh from M.F.A. programs who in earlier times would have been writing midlist adult fiction. Their novels are bought by female editors, stocked by female librarians and taught by female teachers. It’s a cliché but mostly true that while teenage girls will read books about boys, teenage boys will rarely read books with predominately female characters.
So here it’s being framed as a problem that are too many women writing, and they’re writing about other women, and boys don’t want to read that. How about we quit teaching our boys that they aren’t supposed to read about girls, hmm? Also, why the fuck would women writers and women editors and women publishers be a problem? Huh??? What do you, dear readers, make of this?
Sam Riley for The Rumpus: Your Reading List is About To Blow Up!
This isn’t really an article, but a bit of information about a super cool tool that I’m sure I’m going to get addicted to. BookLamp.org works similarly to Pandora – tell it a book you like, and based on a “DNA” analysis of that book’s traits, BookLamp comes up with a buttload of recommendations for you. I’m drooling.