Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Golly gee, working in the library sure is swell!

Back in April, I mentioned this book after it was featured on Awful Library Books because...well, look at it! Since there weren't any libraries near me carrying this gem, I requested it as an ILL for a fun-bad-book-summer-read and just finished it over the weekend.
Jinny Williams is a recent high school graduate who lands her dream job -- library assistant for the local library she loves and has volunteered and paged at for as long as she can remember. The book follows Jinny for a year in her life as she learns the ins and outs of the job, experiences dizzying career highs (a chat with the mayor) and soul crushing lows (a theft in the library), in addition to the trouble of balancing two interested suitors at once. The book often reads like a cheap romance mashed together with a instructional manual with a scene on how to process late notices followed by a (tame) make-out session at the drive-in, so it's easy to see how two authors wrote it (one a librarian), but maybe didn't blend their work as seamlessly as they imagined. The writing is very simple, everything is modified by adjective or adverb: "shaking her head vehemently", "Jinny said blithely", or Jinny's new hat is "disgustingly cute", etc.
The book is wince inducing painfully outdated at times. While somethings can be accounted for due to its 1962 publication date (on page 80, Jinny feels a “housewifely pride” in the neat appearance of the library shelves), it's Jinny's romantic options that caused me to cringe the most. Joe, her current boyfriend, is 21, works a blue collar job, and is pressuring her to settledown. He also argues with Jinny in nearly every interaction they have, does not appreciate the library or her need to have a job, and calls her a "snob" when Jinny complains that she can't marry him because she hasn't even met his parents yet. Paul is the "other guy," a junior college student transfering to Princeton that meets Jinny in the library. Paul introduces Jinny to activities that she has always wanted to do that Joe is never interested in, such as going to see a play, or square dancing. Paul is also polite to Jinny, comes from a wealthy family that likes to sing Swedish Christmas carols (?), and happens to look like Joe's twin. I won't spoil the ending for you, but Jinny says some stuff that would have Helen Gurley Brown spinning in her grave.

Overall, this was a very quaint read and I do at times feel sorry for poor Jinny Williams, Library Assistant, because she is on the brink of an age that is about to change forever. While organizing some magazines, Jinny mentions that she likes Caroline and Jackie Kennedy and how nice it is to have a lovely looking family in the White House. Jinny doesn't know that within a year the President will be assassinated, that Beatlemania is on its way to change the landscape of music, that paintings of soup cans will suddenly be art, that we will land on the moon, and that men will be faced with the Vietnam war lottery draft while women will burn their bras in protest of being second class citizens. There is a simpleness in these old books that is simultaneously ignorant and charming. However, Jinny does live in the most bland world and salary for a Senior Library assistant is listed as $1.25 - $1.85 an hour -- with that kind of dough you can buy yourself a whole Coke!
On a scale of career girl reads, I'd rate Jinny Williams, Library Assistant better than sitting home barefoot and pregnant, but far less liberating than being Oprah or a congresswoman.
Recommended for: librarians who need a laugh or nostalgic nerds who enjoy these career romances written during a time they never had to live through.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

More Bad Author Photos

Meet Johnny Boggs. Johnny is a writer of--wait for it!--westerns. Johnny feels the need to look "authentic." Who can blame him? Lots of us white people feel similarly fraudulent most of the time. Some of us put on hoodies and rap CDs and start using our version of the urban patois we picked up from TV shows and movies. Some of us get MLS's and write bitter nonsense in blogs. But Johnny has a real need to look authentic: he has an author photo shoot to go to. He had to think fast, our Johnny. He could have worn the Dockers and polo shirt he wears most days, but that didn't feel right. Even if Zane Grey himself (or rather, his own self) dressed like an accountant for his author snaps, times have changed, and the people expect their western authors to look, well, western. Such a problem! He had the hat and the unshaven look of the mountain man, but he didn't have the clothes. Quickly, he dashed to his closet. There, in the back, past the Members Only jacket from his youth and the souvenir velvet Chicago Cubs pullover, was the scratchy wool tunic he wore in high school band where he cut a fine figure marching along in his white shoes, swinging his clarinet to and fro to the jazzy, marchy renditions of the Prince songs he loved so dearly. But he'd put on a little weight in the intervening years, and it no longer buttoned up at the neck so well any more. What to do? But Johnny is nothing if not resourceful. He rifled Mom's linen closet until he found the yellow tablecloth she only used for about a week and a half in the spring when the jonquils were full on. She wouldn't miss it for one afternoon. Or would she? If she did, there'd be no pie on Sunday. Throwing caution to the wind like the ornery desperadoes in his books, Johnny wrapped the tablecloth around his neck, hopped in the Hyundai with the "I'd Rather Be Killin' Injuns" bumper sticker on it, and sped off to the photo studio.