Category Archives: My Pop-culture Influences

Librarians in Fiction

As a trainee Teacher-Librarian, I’m interested in the way that librarians are portrayed in fiction and popular culture.  Often, they are stereotyped as awkward, glasses-wearing older women who like to ‘shhh’ people.  But this is not always the case!  I’d like to share some of my all time favourite librarians in fiction.

Henry DeTamble

'Newberry Library, familiar to readers of The Time Traveler's Wife, but not open to the general public' by  Sylvar (Flickr image, CC BY-NC 2.0)
Newberry Library, familiar to readers of The Time Traveler’s Wife, but not open to the general public‘ by Sylvar (Flickr image, CC BY 2.0)

One of my favourite books is The Time-Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger.  This novel is about Henry DeTamble, who suffers from ‘Chrono-Displacement Disorder’, which results in him involuntarily travelling forwards and backwards in time.  He has no say in when or where he will travel, or how long he will be there.  He also can’t take anything with him when he travels – so he turns up in random times and places with no money, no identification, and no clothes.  Henry works as a librarian in the Newberry Library in Chicago, and at times has to come up for explanations as to why he is in the stacks with no clothes on.

Andy Dufresne

One of my all-time favourite movies is The Shawshank Redemption, so I couldn’t make a list of favourite fictional librarians without including Andy Dufresne.  The Shawshank Redemption tells the story of Andy who is imprisoned for life for a crime he did not commit.  Andy becomes the prison librarian, and works tirelessly to turn the library from what is little more than  a storage cupboard to a beautiful library, which he uses to help several other inmates achieve their high-school qualifications.

The Cheshire Cat and Thursday Next

I’ve put these two together because they’re both from the same series of books – the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde.  This is one of my all-time favourite series of books – I love the way that Fforde creates such an amazing and bizarre world.  Set in an alternate-reality world where the Crimean War never ended, Wales is a socialist republic and literature is taken VERY seriously, this series of hilarious and sometimes baffling books centers around ‘literary detective’ Thursday Next, who discovers how to jump into books and become part of the story.

The Cheshire Cat

I’m sure we’ve all heard of the Cheshire Cat from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.  In the Thursday Next series, the Great Library, which features every book ever written, is managed by the Cheshire Cat.

“The Cheshire Cat was the libarian and the first person I had met in the BookWorld.  With a penchant for non sequiturs and obtuse comments, it was hard not to like him.” (Fforde, 2003, p. 71)

“You’re the Cheshire Cat, aren’t you ?” I asked.
“I was the Cheshire Cat,” he replied with a slightly aggrieved air. “But they moved the county boundaries, so technically speaking I am now the Unitary Authority of Warrington Cat, but it doesn’t have the same ring to it.” (Fforde, 2002, p. 164)

Thursday Next

In the most recent book of the series, The Woman Who Died a Lot, our heroine Thursday herself becomes a librarian – but librarians in the Fforde universe are a little different from the ones we know!  These librarians are armed, and dressed in camoflage so they can blend in with the bookshelves.  You don’t want to return your library book late in this world!

Fforde himself obviously has a great respect for librarians, with the dedication at the beginning of The Woman Who Died a Lot stating:

“To all the librarians
that have ever been
ever will be
are now
this book is respectfully dedicated” (Fforde, 2012)

Rupert Giles

I’ve left the best for last.  Rupert Giles, librarian and watcher from Buffy the Vampire Slayer is hands-down my favourite librarian ever.  On the surface, he appears to be a stereotypical, tweed-wearing, tea-drinking librarian who spends most of his time cleaning his glasses.  But like nearly every character in this series, there is more to him than meets the eye.  In his younger days, Giles experimented with black magic and was known as “Ripper”.  He can hold his own in a fight, and is trained to use a variety of weapons.  Giles was a father figure for Buffy, and brought a heart and warmth to the show.

What are your thoughts?

Who are your favourite fictional librarians, and why?

Fforde, J. (2002). Lost in a Good Book. London, Great Britain: Hodder and Stoughton.

Fforde, J. (2003). The Well of Lost Plots. London, Great Britain: Hodder and Stoughton.

Fforde, J. (2012). The Woman Who Died a Lot.  London, Great Britain: Hodder and Stoughton.
Advertisements

My Pop-Culture Influences – The X-Files

David and Gillian at the X-Files' 20th Anniversary panel at Comic Con - Photo by Genevieve719 CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
David and Gillian at the X-Files’ 20th Anniversary panel at Comic Con – Photo by Genevieve719 CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

As some of you may know, this year marks 20 years since The X-Files began.  Wow, does that make me feel old!  The X-Files was one of my biggest pop-culture influences as a teenager, and it is still having an impact on my life today.

The X-Files began in 1993, when I was just starting high school.  It didn’t take me long to become completely obsessed with this show, and involved in the fandom associated with it.  I watched each episode over and over (taped from the TV onto VHS!), bought every magazine with even a small mention of the show and collected everything X-Files related that I could.  When Gillian Anderson visited Australia in 1995, I was one of thousands of screaming fans crammed into Indooroopilly Shopping Centre trying to catch a glimpse.  At a time in my life when I felt awkward and was frequently bullied, this show became an escape for me, and communicating with other fans made me feel like I belonged.

Later on, when studying for my Bachelor of Education, I met a man online who had many shared interests with me – one of which was The X-Files – in fact it was seeing this on my profile listed as an interest that made him want to contact me in the first place.  Seven years later, we were married, and we are now expecting our first baby.

Aussie X-Files Fans @ Facebook - Photo is a screenshot from the website, © 2008-2013 Aussie X-Files Fans - Unofficial X-Files Group @ Facebook
Aussie X-Files Fans @ Facebook – Photo is a screenshot from the website, © 2008-2013 Aussie X-Files Fans – Unofficial X-Files Group @ Facebook

This one television show continues to have an impact on my life.  A few years ago, I came across an Australian fan group called Aussie X-Files Fans @ Facebook.  This amazing group of people, who have been using X-Files fandom not only to build friendships, but also to raise money for charity, welcomed me in with open arms.  Since joining the group, I have gone to fundraisers, participated in TV Club (which involves everyone watching the same episode at the same time and chatting about it via Skype), and met up in person with many of the group members.  I feel privileged to have been involved with such a wonderful group of people.

I am an example of the profound effect that popular culture can have on someone’s life.  I know my life would be very different today if I had not become an X-Files fan.

What are your thoughts?

What were your own popular culture influences in childhood or adolescence?  Were there any books, television shows, movies or games that had a major impact on your life?

Why I love social reading

After reading Darcy Moore’s blog post Social Reading: Fad or Future?, I got to thinking a lot about my own reading habits.

I can’t remember a time when I haven’t been a reader.  I can clearly remember as a child trying to sneak my bedside lamp back on in the middle of the night so I could finish reading my book (Mum and Dad always seemed to hear the click and tell me to turn it off again).  I love talking about books with other people, and until recently, this has usually meant begging them to read the books I love and then nagging them until they do.

When I discovered Goodreads, it opened up a whole new world for me.  Here were online communities who wanted to talk about the books that I was reading!  Not only that, there were book clubs reading books in genres I enjoyed, recommending new titles for me to try.  Two of my bookclubs began holding Google+ hangouts to discuss the monthly book choices, and I got to meet and talk to some wonderful people, some of whom I have now met in person several times.

woman reading Kindle on mountain
My wife reading her Kindle on a mountain by Ryan G. Smith (flickr image, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Not that I’ve always been so embracing of change.  When e-book readers first came out, I always swore I would never get one.  I was adamant that they could never replace the tactile sensations that go along with reading a paper book.  Fast forward to a few years later, and I was having trouble finding all the books I needed in time for my book clubs.  There are no bookshops near where I live, and I was forced to order online much of the time.  After receiving my books after the month was finished (and not being able to read them in time for the discussions), I finally ‘bit the bullet’ and went out to buy a Kindle.

Now, I cannot tell you how much I LOVE my Kindle.  I love being able to buy a book an instantly begin to read it.  I love being able to highlight my favourite parts of the book (very handy when you know you will be discussing the book later in the month) and see what others have been highlighting.  I REALLY love the fact that my book can be synced across devices – so if I’m out and about and have  a few minutes to read, I can take out my iPhone and read, and it will remember where I am up to on my Kindle at home.

Of course, Kindle does have its down sides.  Don’t get me started about the fact that some books are available in the US but not in Australia, or the ridiculous price difference between Australian and US titles.  I miss being able to put the books up on my bookshelf for all to see (although, at the rate I am going, I will need a bigger house if I keep buying books).  I recently met author Hugh Howey, and could have gotten him to sign my copy of his book ‘Wool‘, only I had bought it on Kindle rather than paper.  He told me he actually gets asked to sign people’s Kindles fairly often these days.  I don’t think it’s quite the same!

Despite the drawbacks, I am grateful for the changes that have happened in my reading habits over the last few years.  I have made some great friends, read some books I might never have otherwise tried, and made myself a to-read list that seems never-ending.  I love the opportunities for social reading new technologies have given me.

What are your thoughts?

Do you enjoy reading eBooks, or do you prefer more traditional, paper books?

Moore, D. (2012, July 29). Social reading: Fad or future?. [web log post]. Retrieved from http://darcymoore.net/2012/07/29/social-reading-fad-or-future/

Diversity in Science Fiction and Fantasy

Today one of the members of my book club posted the following video on Facebook, which really got me thinking about the diversity shown in the books I have been reading.

When I looked through my own reading list (thanks, Goodreads!)  I found that of the 66 books I have read so far this year, the split between male and female authors was about half.  However, I could not find *one* book written by an author who was not Caucasian.  I must admit, I was a little shocked by this!  Is this a trend that is just common to speculative fiction, or is it a common trend in popular culture as a whole?

It got me thinking about our responsibilities as teachers and librarians to create collections of books the represent the diversity we are seeing in our students.   How are different races, cultures, genders and sexualities represented in the books available to our students?  What about the books our students are choosing for themselves?

It’s definitely something to think about.  I know I will be thinking about this the next time I choose a book to read.

What are your thoughts?

How does your bookshelf shape up when it comes to diversity?  Is the trend I have noticed a common one?

Booksandpieces. (2013, September 11). Diversity in SFF . Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ECo-5Ggvqk8