Saturday, July 31, 2010

Donating to the library

Continuing my obsessional desire to declutter the house I packed another set of books and strolled down to Wells Library to dispose of them.

After all the book checkers-in and checkers-out had been dealt with, an attractive young librarian with a no-nonsense air about her approached to see why I had dumped a large orange bag on her counter.

She listened with a kind of fierce patience as I began to babble.

"This is Auction Theory by Klemperer, an absolutely excellent treatment of the subject, just the kind of thing a library should have. And here's Atomic: the Secret History of the Atomic Bomb by Jim Baggott. There must be sixth-formers from The Blue School and Wells Cathedral School who are doing economics, science or maths and who will find both these books fascinating.

"Here's The Mating Mind by Geoffrey Miller. It's really well-written. He makes a good case for human intelligence to be the result of sexual selection but I don't buy it myself.

"You probably heard of Lee Smolin's The Life of the Cosmos. It's his first book, the one where he argues that we live in a universe which has been selected for its ability to create black holes (which, he argues, spawn new universes). As a side-effect this makes it good for life as well. However it's just an idea, there's no maths which predicts it. But I'm sure those sixth formers would find it interesting.

"And this enormous tome here, Sarte's Being and Nothingness. I have to say that I have never seen the point of Sartre myself: an awful lot of words signifying very little but occupying way too much time. But I guess someone might want to check it out.

"Finally here's Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. I checked and we actually had three copies of this on our shelves, so now we have just two."

The Librarian had said nothing during this rant and I sensed rather than saw her foot tapping impatiently. She now looked at me and said "We can't take this one," handing back the Jane Austen book, "It's in too poor a condition. The rest we'll look at and if we don't want them we'll put them on sale on the rack over there," and she pointed to the exit.

When I looked back she and the books had gone.


In a new phase of library usage we've taken to borrowing DVDs. The Coen Brothers' "A Serious Man" was yesterday's choice which we watched last night. It concerns a mild-mannered Jewish physics professor humilated by his wife (running off with a local Jewish patriarch), his neighbour (a redneck Caucasian hunter who's encroaching on his land), his students (one is trying to bribe him for a pass grade in math), his brother (in deep trouble with the police), his kids (out of control and ripping him off) and his voluptuous Jewish neighbour on the other side whose husband is away a lot.

The professor ends up thrown out of his house, deep in debt with his tenure balanced on a knife edge. As the film closes he's being summoned immediately by his doctor to talk over the results of his X-rays. The three Rabbis he seeks advice from during the course of the film are patronising airheads.

OK, so this is a pretty ethnic-introverted film and there were no jokes to laugh at. But as a sardonic take on American Jewish life I was engrossed. Clare thought it a bit slow.

Anyway, on the strength of it we were in the library this morning where we took out:

- Moon - Duncan Jones
- Vicky Cristina Barcelona (written & directed by Woody Allen)
- A Rather English Marriage - Paul Seed. This was Clare's choice.

As I type this Clare is listening to the Michel Thomas Foundation Italian course. If she likes it she intends to enroll in the Open University's Italian Course which starts in October: preparation for our tour in Italy next summer.