Guess what I’m doing. I’m refusing to finish The Rabbit Hutch, a novel by Tess Gunty. Only 70 pages remain, but animal cruelty lurks in those pages and I won’t allow such images into my head. The story itself isn’t compelling enough to overcome my reluctance, either. Therefore, it sits unfinished on the ottoman. Face down. And I’m at a stalemate.
I don’t like being a quitter, but it’s better than being traumatized for the rest of my days. The thing is, I’ve reached a point where I resent wasting time on unenjoyable pursuits. Accounts of pointless cruelty and violence simply aren’t welcome, not when world news is what it is. Not when there are thousands of great books still waiting to be read. Lovely books. Interesting books. Fun books. Books with likable, sympathetic characters and great plots. That’s where I want to be.
Breathless reviews have fooled me for the last time. Book critics, award committees, the general public, none of them share my peculiar, very picky standards. For the most part big name authors leave me cold. James Patterson, for instance. I asked a guy once what it was he liked about Patterson’s books and his answer? Short chapters. Well, short chapters aren’t writing, they’re formatting.
I prefer the unheralded mid-listers — Elizabeth McKenzie, Philip Kerr, Fannie Flagg. I’m also a fan of the newly emerging — early Dennis Lehane, Richard Russo before Empire Falls. As well as the old masters — P.G. Wodehouse, Raymond Chandler, James Thurber. They’re my idea of storytellers and I needed a new one.
So, after deciding to abandon The Rabbit Hutch, I sailed off to the library for a new book. Once through the doors, my eyes quickly locked on a title with a charming cover: The Village Idiot by Steve Stern. This was kismet. Somewhat insulting, but kismet, nonetheless.
I picked it up, read the first few paragraphs, and was beguiled. I flipped through the front matter and saw the author had written a number of books, so I wandered from New Releases to Fiction and grabbed the copy of Stern’s The Pinch off the shelf. Then I rocketed through checkout and scurried home, feeling like I’d just pulled off the greatest heist in American history.
And this, my friends, is why we need libraries. I’d never find this author in a local bookstore, because Steve Stern isn’t a big name. He isn’t a brand or a social media icon. He isn’t an Oprah’s Book Club pick. He’s just an amazing writer guy hoping his work gets noticed. My little library is peppered with gems like his. Discovering them is almost better than finding the Fountain of Youth and has a similar effect. It is, in a word, joyous.
We can’t allow small-minded, power hungry zealots to close down libraries. They’re better than Siri, better than google, better than Wikipedia. Libraries are nothing less than idea launchpads and we need to protect them. If not us, who? Complacency is our greatest enemy at this point. We need to stand up and fight back or we’re lost. Decency can’t defend itself; that’s on us.
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