“That’s why most books aren’t true. Sorry, kids.”

January 14, 2010

“I’d like to take this opportunity to point out something important.  Should a strange old man of questionable sanity show up at your door – suggesting that he is your grandfather and that you should accompany him on some quest of mystical import – you should flatly refuse him.

“Don’t take his candy either.

“Unfortunately, as you will soon see, I was quickly forced to break this rule.  Please don’t hold it against me.  It was done under duress.  I’m really not used to being shot at.”

If you didn’t know it by now I’m addicted to the library.  I was passing through on an unrelated errand a week or two ago when this book cover (a notable one you might note) caught my eye.  I tossed it in my bag and it ended up on my bedside table under a stack of Trixie Beldon I treated myself to during the holiday.  When I finished them, this was what my hand hit next.  I love un-expected reading delight.  Of course its great to anticipate the next wonderful installment of a series by your favorite author but … sometimes its even more magical when you happen a book completely by accident and it turns out to be great.  Annie Dillard said books are like landmines that you want to go off; you want them to blow your whole day.

Well last week  Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians blew my whole evening and it was a delightful way to spend it. Its a middle grade novel with a first person narrative that is chatty verging on snotty with the premise that we (everybody you know) live in a place called the Hushlands which is controlled by a cabal of evil librarians who restrict our knowledge and generally keep us down but that there are also people in the Free Kingdoms who are outside of librarian control and are fighting to win back our lands and minds.  Alcatraz Smedry (the librarians name prisons after famous Free Kingdom people is one such freedom fighter – he just doesn’t know it yet because he’s been raised in the Hushlands by the foster system.  Now he’s about to step up.  The text is peppered with little asides and comments to the reader.  “Obviously, you are a person of very poor judgment.  I would ask you to kindly refrain from drawing conclusions that I don’t explicitly tell you to make.  That’s a very bad habit, and it makes authors grumpy.”  That sort of thing.  It also takes a perverse delight in cutting off the middle of an action sequence for a little philosophical tretis on the nature of narrative a comment on other types of books.

Here’s a sample of the amusing snark which kept me up and laughing late into the night:

“My experience has been that people generally don’t recommend this kind of book at all.  It is far too interesting.  Perhaps you have had other kinds of books recommended to you.  Perhapse, even, you have been given books by your friends, parents or teachers, then told that these are the type of books you “have to read.”  Those books are invariably described as “important” – which, in my experience, pretty much means that they’re boring.  (Words like meaningful and thoughtful are other good clues.)

“If there is a boy in these kinds of books, he will not go on and adventure to fight against Librarians, paper monsters, and one-eyed Dark Oculators.  In fact, the lad will not go on an adventure or fight against anything at all.  Instead, his dog will die.  Or, in some cases, his mother will die.  If it’s a really meaningful book both his dog and his mother will die.  (Apparently most writers have something against dogs and mothers.)”

Several chapters later:

“And likely, you Hushlanders are thinking the very same thing.  You are saying to yourself, “The story just lost me.  It degenerated into pure silliness.  And since only silly people enjoy silliness, I’m going to go read a book about a boy whose dog gets killed by his mother.  Twice.”

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One Response to ““That’s why most books aren’t true. Sorry, kids.””

  1. denisedthornton Says:

    Thanks so much for turning me on to this author. I too really enjoyed the read.


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