Friday, April 30, 2010

The Unit vs. Never Let Me Go

I recently read The Unit, by Ninni Holmqvist (translated from the Swedish by Marlaine Delargy) and Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro. The dystopian genre to which these books belong has fascinated me since I was introduced to 1984 back when I was a high school sophomore.

I recommend both these titles to book groups. Although there are similarities between them, my favorite is definitely Holmqvist's debut novel, The Unit. A lot more seems to happen in that book than in Never Let Me Go, which is a quieter read and zeroes in more closely on a tight-knit trio of friends.

Both stories are set in societies (in Sweden in the near future and Great Britain in the late-1990s, respectively) where certain members are considered dispensable and are sacrificed for the good of others. Dorrit, the protagonist of The Unit, is wiser to what is going on than the friends of Never Let Me Go, who try to figure out the full scope of their situation for the entirety of the book.

Both Dorrit and Kathy, who narrates Never Let Me Go, become involved in bittersweet love affairs that greatly complicate matters. How does one reconcile love while on a fast track to the end of life? Does society trump the individual?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Thoughts on This Book is Overdue!

I hope people besides librarians are interested in reading Marilyn Johnson's This Book is Overdue! because she says how librarians are adapting to a changing world and why their services are still valuable. Libraries need this kind of support! I read her book not because I wanted to congratulate myself on my chosen career but rather to see how she might influence public views of the profession. I was aware of many of the specific library trends and librarians that Johnson discusses (the Connecticut Four--love the title of that chapter: "Big Brother and the Holdout Company;" librarian bloggers; the strong librarian presence on Second Life; among others) but the public at large likely is not.

This is a fun book on librarianship, for the most part, with anecdotes about a colorful array of librarians. Johnson got the idea for the book when she was researching obituaries for her first book, The Dead Beat, and found that--according to her--librarians were some of the most interesting people out there.

A whole book praising librarians may be a bit much, as Johnson does not tie the book together as well as she could have. I remain a mix of worried and hopeful about whether American culture is going to embrace librarians well into the future. We certainly have a significant advocate and ally in Marilyn Johnson.