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Why Stephen Donaldson’s Thomas Covenant Books are the Real “American Tolkien”

assholeleper

Every generation a new American fantasy writer gets dubbed the “American Tolkien”. Few of them deserve it.

George R.R. Martin’s Song of Fire and Ice books are popular thanks to the terrible HBO series, but Martin is the least deserving of the title. Martin is a great short story writer, but a poor novelist and his world building is terrible.  Tolkien would have hated Game of Thrones and everything that followed.

Stephen R. Donaldson is the only writer who got called the American Tolkien and deserved the title. Not because Donaldson is a better writer than Martin. He’s much worse than Martin in almost every department except epics.

And that’s the one that counts. But there have been plenty of better epic fantasy novelists than Donaldson.

What makes Donaldson deserving of the title is that he didn’t just try to copy Tolkien. Copying Tolkien was a booming industry. Stephen R. Donaldson tried to comment on J.R.R. Tolkien’s ideas.

The Thomas Covenant books are not a series about fighting orcs. Neither is Lord of the Rings. They’re about the ethical impact of the decisions we make.

Donaldson is one of the very few writers who captured the environmental scope of Lord of the Rings. The forests and plains and mountains are characters in the Covenant books the way that they are in Lord of the Rings. Both series use the environment to give the books epic scope.

But Donaldson takes everything Tolkien did to an extreme. The Lord of the Rings books are not fond of industrialization. Donaldson creates an anti-industrial society where no one even chops wood or injures stone. Instead they’re so in harmony with nature that they figure out how everything fits together. It’s very seventies, but it’s developed so that it’s the magic system and the mythology of the books.

Tolkien’s characters are conflicted about power. They worry that using it might be more dangerous than not using it. Donaldson turns that up to the highest pitch by making his main character a man who is terrified of using power and certain that it will corrupt him. Thomas Covenant makes Frodo look like General Patton.

In Lord of the Rings, the right thing isn’t what succeeds, but what is morally right. Killing Gollum would have been the smart thing to do, but not doing is what saves the whole quest and Middle Earth. Covenant spends most of the books not killing his own Gollum no matter how much harm and suffering it brings.

Donaldson often shamelessly copies Tolkien, but sometimes he effectively condenses him. Covenant’s first dialogue with Saltheart Foamfollower about the ring works much better than the similar scene with Tom Bombadil. Not to mention that splitting up the Ents into Giants and Forrestals works a lot better. And Tolkien’s own initial ideas had focused on someone from our world traveling back in time to another age, but he could never make it work.

The Thomas Covenant books are wildly eccentric, but so is Lord of the Rings. There’s no comparison in terms of quality. Tolkien is far better. But Donaldson is probably the best at closely copying much of what he achieved. The Covenant books take the same material to extremes and Tolkien would probably not have liked the results, but he would have recognized them right down to the religious influences.

Is Mr. Mercedes Stephen King’s Worst Book?

mr-mercedes

Mr. Mercedes doesn’t read like Stephen King. It doesn’t even read like Dean Koontz. It reads like Mediocre Thrillerwriter from the four books for a buck shelf.

It reads like a trunk novel from 1992 when the internet was new and scary and a rash of books and TV movies about evil little nerds plotting to kill people with super computer magic were everywhere.

And it wouldn’t surprise me if that was exactly where Mr. Mercedes is from.

The title and cover of Mr. Mercedes strain to convince you that it’s going to be another complicated ride filled with allusions building up to… forget about it.

There’s nothing supernatural here. There’s nothing any deeper than the movie of the week here.

Mr. Mercedes is the story of a battle of wits between your stock character, the retired cop still haunted by a case (divorced, alcoholic, thinking of suicide – all the cliche boxes are checked) and an updated Norman Bates who not only has a sick relationship with his mother, but also works on the Geek Squad at Best Buy and has an evil command center in his basement full of laptops with a countdown running.

And he voice controls them by saying “Chaos”.

Stephen King has written bad novels before, but never boring ones. This isn’t Christine. This isn’t The Under the Dome. It’s just bland.

The writing is bad. The characters are bland. The plot is predictable. I skipped 100 pages ahead and sure enough, the Best Buy Norman Bates had killed his mother. I skipped ahead another 100 pages and the plastic explosive mentioned early on had been used to blow up the cop’s new girlfriend.

And then I put down the book for good.

That was the first time I put down a Stephen King book without reading it through. But before King had always put in enough hooks, enough verbal special pleadings, to keep you going. Mr. Mercedes is the first time his talent completely abandoned him.

There’s nothing here worth reading.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe after 300 pages the whole thing turns into a hidden mystical battle between his shopping list and his ghostwriter.

But I’m betting it doesn’t.

If you programmed a computer to write a Stephen King novel, it might spit out something like Mr. Mercedes. It’s unimaginative. It’s so unimaginative that it doesn’t even inhabit the same space as imagination.

There are some of Stephen King’s tics here, but they come off badly. The Best Buy Bates talks like an elderly 60s racist. Really, what twenty something today says “Darkie”. There’s a young black character who keeps saying “Massa”.

It’s embarrassing to read. It must have been even more embarrassing to edit. Except that it obviously wasn’t edited.

King tried to learn something about the internet in the process of writing or rewriting this, but it just makes the basic errors and the context of it even dumber.

The cop and the Best Buy Bates spar through a supersecret connection that sounds like a housewife’s chat room from the 90s. There’s talk about vacuuming crumbs out of CPUs. The Best Buy Bates is an inventor and computer genius who never heard of a Roomba.

I don’t know why Mr. Mercedes exists.

It’s obvious that Stephen King has been having some writing problems. He put out two trunk novels recently and a few sequels. The quality has been weak, but Mr. Mercedes isn’t weak. It has no merits.

There’s no reason to read it.

The Frozen Rabbi by Steve Stern book review

The Frozen Rabbi is billed as magical realism but magical realism requires a sense of whimsy. Instead of whimsy, The Frozen Rabbi reeks of contempt for anyone and anything that comes into its view. A narrative that crosses a 100 years and the life of dozens of men and women seems to have no purpose except to humiliate and degrade every single one of them. Just when you think The Frozen Rabbi has gone as low as it could possibly go, it goes even lower. Any noble impulse has to be degraded in a book that begins with a teenager masturbating to a piece of frozen liver and ends with the dead teenager’s girlfriend having sex in prison with the titular frozen Rabbi.

frozen rabbi

The Frozen Rabbi isn’t even uniquely bad. It’s a bad pastiche of a hundred years of literature ending with Philip Roth and Michael Chabon. And Steve Stern makes a poor man’s Michael Chabon, which is sad because Michael Chabon is already a poor man’s Michael Chabon. Like Chabon’s Yiddish Policeman’s Union, The Frozen Rabbi isn’t a story of characters, it’s a collection of ghetto stereotypes wedged into absurd situations that the authors feel no connection with resulting in what deserves to be called, Minstrel Show Literature. It’s about an absurdity that the authors have decided is inherently noteworthy because of its absurdity.

The Frozen Rabbi is the kind of labored absurdist satire that has been cranked out for as long as disgruntled college freshmen have looked for books that reward their sneering cynicism. It’s Rob Swiggart’s Little America dressed up in a black hat and coat and there are enough similarities between the two books that Steve Stern could be accused of plagiarism, if there weren’t a million other books that told the same story in the same labored fashion.

Aside from the sexism, racism and homophobia, The Frozen Rabbi isn’t nearly as offensive as it wants to be. It’s just tired. Like its title character it’s frozen and it never thaws out.

Library Porn vs Library Books

It’s a story as old as time. Library has patrons browsing porn on library computers. Other patrons complain about the porn. Library solves problem by installing some kind of privacy hoods on computers that will make porn users feel like Darth Vader and frighten off any complaining patrons.

library porn

the old Times Square… now at your Library

In all the tireless debate over whether people have the right to look at porn in a library or not, no one asks whether libraries should really be spending money on porn terminals during hard times. And forget the porn thing.

When I walk into a library, it’s mostly people checking Facebook and playing Farmville or some other Zynga clickety click crap.

Last month I asked whether the transformation of the New York Public Library from book depot to teen hangout with Farmville stations really served its core mission?

I refused to support NYPL’s latest begging letter campaign because I see it eliminating book departments like crazy while buying laptops to loan out so people can play Farmville and watch porn. That’s not what a library is. Science Fiction sections have been eliminated or moved as far as possible in many libraries. And books are a library’s core mission.

the modern library

One guy watching porn, one guy playing a Zynga game. One guy watching FOX News. Who needs books anyway?

I’m sorry if some people don’t have a computer at home that they can use to play Farmville or watch porn. Maybe they can make their own Kickstarter. But if a library is going to have computers, they should be research terminals.

There’s no reason why funds should be diverted from books to subsidizing Farmville\Porn habits. And putting it special terminals for porn watching turns a library into the old Times Square. What’s next bringing in strippers to the reserved books section?

Moments like this are a wake up call for library and city officials who have to decide whether they want libraries to be places to find books or not.

Comic Con is Over

How do I know Comic Con is over? It has a red carpet. It’s a place where Twilight cast members show up to discuss Twilight. It’s a place where Twilight fans get killed trying to meet Twilight cast members.

Some might say that Comic Con is what it’s always been, loud, overcrowded and stupid. So the media merchandising has moved up from meeting Kevin Eastman to meeting the stars of the latest twenty movies to be in some loose sense based on comic book properties or cartoons or something loosely SciFi. And with Disney owning Marvel and WB owning DC, there are a ton of those.

But Comic Con has turned into another industry convention and there’s no going back. And that happened because the new blockbuster model of turning out interchangeable movies based on IP’s sitting in someone’s closet went big. And comic books are perfect vehicles for providing you with existing IP’s that you can easily turn into a movie about a few characters beating the hell out of each other on and off for 90 minutes while buildings explode. That is actually how comic books got started and it’s a big part of what the Marvel and DC brand is.

It’s not really about the comics. It’s obviously not about the people who actually enjoy them. They’re no different than Transformers. Just parts you can put together into a blockbuster movie. And Comic Con is where some of the IP sources show up.

Comic Con is a place where you go to wear your Slave Leia costume and hope G4 notices you and a place to hear the latest news about Twilight.

Echo by Jack McDevitt book review

There’s an entire industry built on turning the music you love into easy listening elevator music. Jack McDevitt‘s books are mostly elevator music versions of older Science Fiction novels. They’re easy to read and they carry a soothing mood along with them that feels like riding in a glass elevator while listening to a completely unrecognizable, but somehow recognizable, easy listening piece of music that once belonged to a great composer.

echo jack mcdevitt

Don’t let the cover fool you. This isn’t really space exploration or hard science.

The Alex Benedict novels are the weakest of Jack McDevitt‘s work. Like the rest of his books they’re set in what feels like a future Canada, where most people have the tastes and attitudes of the 1950’s and 1960’s. But the Benedict novels happen to be set tens of thousands of years in the future, which makes the whole thing less credible than the Academy novels.

Like so many Jack McDevitt novels, Echo is about a quest for something deeply meaningful to the human soul with profound blah blah. In this case, as in so many cases, that’s aliens. The problem is that the last Alex Benedict novel, The Devil’s Eye was about a showdown with a powerful race of aliens who eventually help save an endangered planet. But in Echo, everyone acts like Sunset Tuttle, a researcher who spent his life looking for aliens and then left behind a mysterious artifact, is insane for searching for a third alien race, even though there’s already a major alien race that everyone knows about.

But the artifact catches the attention of Alex Benedict and Chase Kolpath who try to hunt down its origin. There are a few attempted assassinations, lots of conversations, a chase scene and eventually a journey to find a mysterious alien world that is more and less and more than it’s supposed to be. If you’ve read these before, then you know what to expect. Jack McDevitt is channeling some classic movies here and the twist is, like the rest of the book, adequate.

Echo is easy listening. It pretends to be about something important, but it’s not. It pretends to make you think, but it doesn’t. All the portentous quotes at the beginning of every chapter, that still sound like Jack McDevitt even though they are meant to be from fictional writers who aren’t him, are just as light as the book.

If you have to take a trip somewhere, Echo is an acceptable companion. It’s junk food dressed up as something classier and more nutritious. But that doesn’t mean it’s bad for you. Just don’t expect anything from the science or the ideas. When you encounter aliens who talk, think and look exactly like us, and are also run by a matriarchy which worships a goddess of reason, along with about pages of ponderings on how first encounters change societies, without ever really showing it happen in the book, except with a place called “Alien Pizza”; don’t be too disappointed.

It’s only easy listening.

Fifty Shades of Book Death

fifty shades of grey new york times besteller listWhat you’re looking at here is the New York Times Bestseller list in Fiction. (Non-fiction is headed by two books attacking Obama and Bill O’Reilly proving that liberals killed Lincoln or something)

It’s also proof that we should just give up on this whole literacy thing. Because we’ve had it. Just because people buy books and can read, doesn’t mean that they can read. It just means they can scan words, one after another.

We’re not talking about the bestseller list being clotted up by the latest garbage from Tom Clancy or Richard Patterson North or the Oprah Book Club. This is wankfic at the top of the bestseller list. Not just at the top but covering the entire bestseller list. This is what people want as their beach reading. And it doesn’t end there.

Author Bret Easton Ellis tweeted, “Completely committed to adapting Fifty Shades of Grey. This is not a joke. Christian Grey and Ana: potentially great cinematic characters,”

Of course it’s not a joke. Jokes are funny. This is a different kind of joke. More like a Joker joke that proves that everything is senseless and meaningless.

Meanwhile, movie rumors are buzzing. Emma Roberts, Lucy Hale and Ashley Benson have expressed interest in playing virginal college student Anastasia Steele.

Julia Roberts built her career on playing a cheerful hooker, her niece can do it by playing some girl to be slapped around. The gap isn’t that big, it’s just indicative.

It might not be such a bad thing if we could take away the reading privileges from some people. “You have abused your reading abilities, so they are being confiscated. After a year you might get them back. Now go watch Grey’s Anatomy.”

 

Merchandising the Hell out of Game of Thrones

You can’t blame a writer for trying to make money from his creation. You can blame him for an extended narrative relying on gimmicks and you can also blame him for looking at Farmville and thinking, “Wouldn’t it be neat if we made something like that except with Game of Thrones.”

Yes sadly that’s a thing. And it comes from George R.R. Martin’s blog, alongside pitches for the actual Iron Throne, swords and figurines from the TV series.

I don’t know much about social media. I don’t have a facebook or twitter account. But I’ve been told a few people have them, and that some of those people like to play social media games. I’m told the biggest social media game involves running a farm.

Surely, I thought, there must be something one could do on social media that would be more fun that growing turnips and feeding chickens. Like, say, scheming and plotting, murders and marriages, contesting for power.

HBO shared the feeling, and together we have granted the license for a social media game based on GAME OF THRONES to a great new start-up company called Disruptor Beam ((http://disruptorbeam.com/ )) Game development is already well under way.

I’m not a major expert on Zynga country, but I’m sure they already have a ton of games that cover that territory. Just not one with the Game of Thrones brand.

The news stories on Disruptor’s site keep pushing the “It’s not Farmville” angle so my guess is that Disruptor’s PR people handed

game of thrones merchandising crap

Tacky merchandising is coming

Martin that angle and told him to go with it. Disruptor Beam lists no previous games so I’m assuming a few veterans of other social gaming companies who came together to make their own company, hire some newbies, get a lucrative license, put out a game that gets some attention entirely because it’s based on a TV series that gets some attention mainly because it’s on HBO which has a smooth PR machine.

But isn’t this overkill?

Martin’s blog is full of a ton of merchandising Game of Thrones crap. There’s already a game out.  There’s also reportedly going to be an MMO. Now there’s a social media game out. There’s a TV series and a graphic novel. All for a series of books that isn’t close to finished.

At this rate most people will be sick of Game of Thrones long before it’s finished. It’s not just oversaturated, it’s supersaturated. It’s everywhere and it’s really not that good. But even if it were that good, nothing survives this much stuff being associated with it. Even Lord of the Rings lost some of its stature because for a while you couldn’t turn left without seeing another figurine or game. And that’s a time tested series.

If you think this isn’t overkill, have a look at the HBO Game of Thrones store for things like a concert tour shirt with the names of Season 2 episodes, an iPhone skin that just says Khal on it, and an actual crown. This is the definition of pump and dump. Saturate a topic, sell as much of it as you can, until everyone is sick of it.

Oversaturating Game of Thrones serves HBO’s interests. They want to pull as much money out of it as possible, out of the gate, and move on to the next thing. Saturating Game of Thrones keeps it a trending topic and pulls in viewers to subscribe to HBO which is the game plan. When people get bored, HBO will have already rolled out the next thing.

But is it in Martin’s interest? George R.R. Martin wasn’t a major personality before this. He was a talented writer, but now he’s gone pop culture. It’s a big opportunity and cashing in on it is natural, but he needs to think of his long term interests which don’t just revolve around selling as many Game of Thrones trinkets as possible. It’s in how people see Game of Thrones after HBO has pumped it and dumped it and his image as a writer who can do more than Game of Thrones, not as the bearded guy on the Game of Thrones shopping network.

Memes, catchphrases, trends wear out quickly. The more you oversaturate it, the faster it wears out. Game of Thrones will wear out before the last book is done. The backlash will come even earlier. And what happens then?

Reviewing Authority

Do you look at your master carpentry credentials when you take note of a stairway or deck or a door that is falling apart before your very eyes?

Of course you do not.

So then, why is this kind of question tolerated when talking about film-making, novel writing, TV shows, or comic books?

Heavy Armor at Loose Cannon asks the question. (I almost spelled that Loose Canon, which would be a whole other topic.)

Movies, books, comic books are products you buy. They’re products that you pay for.

 

The first authority for reviewing something is as a customer. That attitude has proliferated all over the internet with producti am legend poster reviews for everything. On Amazon you can register your opinion on a new hard drive, a new mop or a DVD of Season 4 of Battlestar Galactica.

Even if you didn’t hand over cash for the experience, you paid in time. The Simpsons in their Poochie episode mocked Comic Book Store guy (the default mode of TV producers and writers for imagining what their critics are like) for complaining about a TV show he didn’t pay for.

“What,” the episode has Bart tell him, when he complains about an episode,  “They’ve given you thousands of hours of entertainment for free. What could they possibly owe you? I mean, if anything, you owe them.”

Uh no. Nothing is free. Free television sells your attention span to its advertisers. It’s still a product that you’re paying for, the arrangement is just more complicated and it’s a three way transaction.

Set against this is the aesthetic argument that reviewing a creative product is different than reviewing a mop or a new hard drive. It’s not a wrong argument. A creative product has a deeper level of engagement, but that just means there’s a deeper level of expectations. But the same rules still apply. If a product doesn’t satisfy you, doesn’t meet its expectations and is poorly constructed, then it’s your duty as a paying customer to speak out about it.

 

The second authority for reviewing is creative. The authority for acting as a reviewer comes from the same place that the authority for being any kind of writer does. You can do it well or you can do it badly, but there’s no source of authority for it.

A script or a book isn’t good or bad because of the authority of its writer. If an episode is bad or a poem is terrible, will the author resorting to citing his education history or his awards make it any better?

If you read, then you are an authority on reading. If you watch television, then you are an authority on television. If you watch movies, then you are an authority on movies. Your experience is your authority. You know what you like. You know what you don’t like. You know what you want to get out of it. That makes you, your own authority.

Sure you might not know the difference between a single camera sitcom and a multi-camera sitcom, until it’s pointed out to you. You might not know what a tracking shot is. You might not be able to define irony. You might not realize the author’s whole fourth chapter is a reference to a famous epigram from Proust. But do those things really matter? I can talk for three paragraphs about a tracking shot, because it matters to me. To someone else it’s just a really long boring stroll where nothing happens. You are your own authority.

The more you know about a subject, the geekier you get about it. It’s why creatives love reviewers with authority who can appreciate all the technical things. They like the idea of being judged on technique, not on experience. On the flip side, terminator salvation movie posterpopular trashy creatives like to be judged on audience experience, not on technique. And all of those are valid approaches because they’re all valid experiences with a product.

There’s no higher authority and no gated castle here. Entertainment is meant to be entertaining, it’s also meant to sometimes make you think and do a hundred other things that some speaker at AFI will talk about for fifteen minutes while looking at a bunch of old people wearing too much makeup.

A product is still a product. How much you know about it, can give your review more depth. A true expert can review a hard drive by going into detail about each component, discussing where the controller was manufactured, the manufacturer’s track record with components, how the transfer rate on the box differs from the actual rate that most users will experience under normal read/write conditions. And all that is important.

But if your hard drive is broken, if this is the third time that you sent it back, and you got it shipped back and it’s still bad, then your experience and your review and authority to review it is just as good.

The New York Public Library’s War on Books

Walk into any public library and you are confronted with stacks of begging letters to send out to Mayor Bloomberg and the City Council asking them to keep funding intact for libraries. What you aren’t confronted with… are that antiquated technology known as books.

library books

Pictured, not a library priority

Trying to find books in a New York Public Library has become a challenge. The library is daring you to go ahead and actually find a book and walk out with it.

The first thing you see when you walk into a library are flyers for a dozen events, none of them having anything to do with books. You can find everything from economic literacy classes to cartoon drawing to a film series on the plight of Group X in period Y. No books though. The events are mostly geared to teens and a lot of them are even more useless than I made them sound.

Next up are the computers. Row after row of computers with patrons using them to play games and mess around with Facebook. Many libraries also have laptops that can be borrowed by patrons, so they can also play games and chat online. The computers can, in theory, be used for research, but most of the time they’re arcades.

After that you reach the counter. There are a few books at the counter, but they’re current bestsellers on a 1 Week loan. Even on the rare occasion when there’s something to read in that pile, there is no actual time to read them.

Past the counter are the reserve shelves, where books that patrons have reserved ahead of time, sit waiting for them. Why put reserve books in a priority space near the exit? I don’t know, but I’ve seen it in enough libraries to assume it’s policy. Instead of walking into a library and seeing books, there are shelves filled with wrapping paper books that no one but their designated borrower can take out.

the modern library

Pictured... a library priority. One guy watching porn, one guy playing a Zynga game. One guy watching a FOX News video. Who needs books anyway?

Now you might think that you’re about to find some books. Good luck. Next stop are the DVD’s. Blockbuster may be out of business, but the New York Public Library, funded by tax dollars, is still in the DVD rental business. Want to see Adam Sandler or Eddie Murphy’s latest movie? Go to the library. Don’t worry, you won’t be distracted by any of those books. The New York Public Library has made sure you won’t be offended by encountering any printed matter on your quest to use your taxpayer subsidized version of Blockbuster Video.

In the corner there might be some audio books to slowly adjust patrons to the idea that there might be actual books in the library. But actual books for adults who can read English? Good luck.

There will be a few bestsellers in the New Fiction and New Non-Fiction shelves somewhere near the front or in the middle of the library. Hope you like James Patterson, Bill O’Reilly, Dean Koontz, diet books, Oprah, Richard North Patterson, Jimmy Fallon, Dan Rather and Jackie Collins.

Most libraries now prioritize foreign language books for immigrants or books for teens. I have seen libraries where you have to go all the way to the back just to find the fiction section. Other libraries where the fiction section is on a high floor. I visited a library where not only was the first floor reserved for teen and foreign language books, but normal patrons were barred from sitting on chairs on the first floor because they were reserved for teens. (It would probably have been illegal to also reserve them for foreign speakers.)

Actually getting to the Fiction section has become a challenge. There was a time, not so long ago, where you could walk into a library and quickly encounter books. Now you have to walk around the library, hoping to one day run into the Fiction section. You have to take elevators and escalators. All to get to the meat and potatoes section of the library. The Fiction section. (Not to mention History, which is often just as hard to get to.)

new york public library

Sure there aren't many books... but look how shiny it is. It's just like the Apple store

Science Fiction books take the worst of it. In one library the Science Fiction section has been moved around so many times that it’s approaching light speed. In another the entire Science Fiction section was disintegrated, and combined together with Romance and a few other genres in a mess of books, sorted only by alphabet, that hardly anyone touches. Who benefits from this besides lazy librarians?

Science Fiction isn’t the only section that suffers, but it’s the whipping boy, the one that every library thinks is disposable. Mysteries and Romance have a higher status. They’re more likely to get placement somewhere accessible. They’re better stocked and better positioned.

But the New York Public Library has decided that its core is being a teen hangout and an immigrant reading room. A library should have teen books and foreign language books, but those should not be its main activity. There’s a difference between a social center and a library, and the difference is literacy.

The New York Public Library, like actual businesses, is so desperately catering to people who can’t read or don’t want to read, that it is alienating people who do read and do want to use its services. Who aren’t there to play Facebook games or take out a DVD. The NYPL is alienating readers.

New York Public Library waste

Wi-Fi Reading Room. The words, they make no sense

This time around I won’t be signing the begging letters. I want the New York Public Library to stick around, but not in its current state. I don’t believe that in a tough economy where vital services are being cut, that money should be spent on an organization that has slashed its stock of older books to the point that many important volumes aren’t available anymore, even as in-library reading, but has lots of money to spend on laptops for all and DVD’s for people too cheap to get Netflix.

The purpose of a library is to make reading material available to the masses. Its purpose is not to be a teen hangout. There’s plenty of money going to afterschool activities already. Its purpose is not to let people play Mafia Wars, while books are shelved so far out of sight that you need a telescope to find them.

I will support the New York Public Library when it ends its war on books and becomes a reader-friendly environment again.

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