Sunday, October 31, 2010

Nancy Pearl

Nancy Pearl is a celebrity of sorts. She initiated the "One City, One Book" library program to create a strong sense of community through reading. Her books- "Book Lust", "More Book Lust" and "Book Crush"- are great resources on what to read when. Besides that, what other librarian has their own action figure?

She was at Powell's recently to promote "Book Lust To Go"- recommendations for the travelin' type. The reading was so much better than I expected.

Nancy Pearl looked like a librarian. Or, at least she gave off that vibe. Everyone could tell she was a Reader with a capital "R" from the get-go. She was forever recommending titles throughout the night. She shared many interesting and hilarious anecdotes- including the time she got locked in a hotel bathroom with nothing to read. Amusingly, she had the habit of going off on tangents, leaving unanswered questions and unfinished thoughts behind.

She then gave the rundown of "the perils of a life of reading". The first was having a "reader's vocabulary" in which words get mispronounced all the time based on how it looks on a page. Her own examples were "awry" and "misled". Not bothering to look up the actual definitions of words and relying too heavily on contextual clues was the second. The final peril she shared was accidentally borrowing the lives of the characters you've read. You may have a memory of something that happened to you only to realize that it was actually a storyline in a book. Why, I remember, when I was a young boy, I had to do a bit of whitewashing. I didn’t want to at all and I somehow tricked a bunch of other kids to do it for me! Those were fun times….

In a more somber moment, she said she was in an "existential funk" concerning the state of bookstores and libraries- and the actual book itself. She did encourage a librarian-to-be to stay with the program though. One of the things she said that really stuck out was even though everyone can read the same book, they read a different version of that book.

After going to so many readings, I finally had something for an author to sign- a copy of "Book Lust Journal" I had bought earlier that day. I also made small talk asking her if she was attending the many literary events that were planned that weekend- Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association and Wordstock. (Yes on the former. No on the latter.)

It would be horrible of me not to include some of the books Nancy Pearl recommended. Jonathan Franzen's "Freedom", Karl Marlantes' "Matterhorn", and Tatjana Soli's "The Lotus Eaters" were the more current ones she mentioned.

All in all, it was a great experience.

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