Category Archives: reading and books

Border blues

O Canada!

The federal government of our neighbors (okay, neighbours) to the nor

ALA Editions, 2015

ALA Editions, 2015

th has spoken against my wily ways once again. This time, my unexpected–and undreamed–offense falls between the covers of a professional book. I mailed a copy of Libraries and the Affordable Care Act, fully labelled for Customs, and it came bouncing back from the border station near Scarborough, marked inappropriate for import. Okay, smarties, you have government-supported healthcare up there already (although it’s not national healthcare but rather province-by-province assured). Would it really have hurt anyone to be exposed to my admittedly dry prose steering US public library staff through their sophomore efforts with what the US (and 17 states within it) have on offer for those of us who are…well, south of the border?

My intentions in mailing it were pure: no plan to poach either patients or library patrons. I was mailing it to someone–admittedly a former US public librarian–who was beset with curious questions about how this set of 2010-enacted laws work. Heck, if the book’s good enough for library staff here, what could it hurt to share the info–with one person, mailed to a home address–there?

Or maybe I should interpret the official rejection as the book’s very first review. In which case, I am in big do-do beyond my border rep.

It’s almost exactly seven years to the day that my attempt to receive a then-six-year-old computer monitor coming across the border (again, south to north) was met with equal outrage. That time, however, I was on the north side and could be hunted down with the $1000C import fee demanded. Uh, no.

But, Canada, we gotta stop meeting like this: books meant for librarians trying to understand snaggly US insurance laws, antique computer monitors. What’s it gonna be in 2021? Should I start crafting a plan now? I’m thinking origami animals. Who can say no to them?

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Scarry and Scarry: world making

Back in 1985, I was lucky enough to take up now Harvard literature Professor Elaine Scarry’s first book, The Body in Pain: The making and unmaking of the world (Oxford University Press). It’s just the type of book I would not pick up planfully and am grateful, instead, to the Review Assignment gods for delivering it to me. Scarry’s asserts that the individual experiencing pain–whether as the result of intentional infliction or as a symptom of another condition–undergoes a revocation of the personal construct s/he recognizes as reality. It is not that the subject’s context undergoes objective change and yet, pain unmakes our contextual basis.

Ten years later, my house seemed to be breeding volumes by a very different Scarry: Richard Scarry, an American picture book author and artist, created a deep catalog of books in which animals of every species, anthropomorphically ┬ácostumed, engage in every aspect of busyness the conscious body can express. There are books about occupations and books about vehicle use, books set in densely built cityscapes and others at sea. Scarry’s explorations of cheerful, colorful, overlapping busyness give the beholder pause: in fact, to explore Scarry’s busy world, one’s own busyness needs to be paused.

Together, these two Scarry’s taught, and reteach me when I can remember their articulations, that what I call “world”–that is, my reality–calls on me to construct insights that pain alters, and to take pauses to see that world in its busy details. Neither of these activities–recognition and pause–come readily to me as a matter of habit. Another damn good reason to read widely and catch the advisings of so many other constructivists.

 

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