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The book is wince inducing painfully outdated at times.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.

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