Posts Tagged: library

MEGA litt 2010

The event I was blogging about the last time has now come and gone, and yes, Per Stig Møller was quoted for saying that somehow the ministry had ‘found’ (I am not shitting you, this is the wording I read on the money before, and now all of a sudden they had yet again found them. So clap, literati, clap for the fact that your whopping 16 million DKK got saved from the big bad corporate hyena and his big bad no-nonsense-gross-expenditure-flashdance-pack.
I was of course an hour late for the event, because me and hubby had some more urgent affairs finding webbings for our old and battered sofa. But when I got there, boy oh boy, the library was bustling with people. Old, young, hipsters, non-hipsters, people who actually had to use the library that day to study, a swarm of people hiding behind cameras, and of course, writers.

All in all it was a very quick experience. There was so much going on (over 200 writers reading from their works on 25 stages in a period of 2 hours) that I felt like a headless chicken, and thought I saw many with the same syndrome. But then again, it was a staged event to make a point, and the point came out loud and clear – there is diversity and a plurality of voices among the Danish writers (and this was just an itty-bitty fraction of what DK has to offer). MEGA litt was, in my opinion, not about enjoying the arts in a laid back fashion, letting the words sink in and mellowing out. It was about fighting for literature as a right in itself and standing up for themselves in a loud, cacophonous unison.
Let’s just hope this pugnacious attitude can bring some more debate about who and what and why.

Grants for literature

Danish krone
Image via Wikipedia

In the past couple of weeks, there has been an uproar within the ranks of and about the creators, exponents and critics of literature in Denmark. The reason? Why, money of course. Well, no I am sorry, I didn’t mean that. In all actuality it is about money, but since the government announced its 100 million DKK budget cuts in the arts, of which about 16 million DKK go to literature and author grants, it means that this particular pool of money is getting cut 75 % over the next four years. 75 percent!!
Now, I could go the very constructive way, and say that it makes sense that there should be some cuts in these areas, as all other areas are affected by The Financial Crisis and too must face difficult times up ahead. I could go as far as to say, yes, this should take the cut and deal with it. But somewhere between the lines there is that little mad person, that is not going to take it no more!!
I mean, 75%! Why not the whole lot? It is obvious that this administration does not prioritize the arts, nor see it as an investment in further development and cultivation of the arts. Why patronize a whole branch of society by giving out minor scraps, crumbs of the table of life sciences and pharmaceuticals?
Fortunately, being the creative and resourceful bunch that they are, they are mad as hell too (well, most of them, some just like to shit where they eat, but I’ll get to that). And so Dansk Forfatterforening (The Danish Writers Association) has set up an event that will say goodbye to this pool with a bang. More that 200 writers and translators will, in the course of two hours on Saturday, November 6th, between 13.00 and 15.00, read from their works on 25 stages at Copenhagen Main Library. MEGA Litt: The largest literature reading in Danish history. Aarhus (because, yes, they have legally changed their name, for strategic and marketing reasons, back to double A… sorry, sidetracked) will also host a slightly smaller event at the same time.

However, this whole mess has sparked of a new war. This time between some critics of the current distribution of said grants for literature and authors and the allocators who dish out these grants. The reason? Why, money of course. In the book section of Weekendavisen # 43, Leonora Christina Skov, literary critic and author, makes her contribution to the debate, and might I add, thank heavens! I do adore getting all sides of the story, and her piece has revealed a, not at all surprising, but bias relationship between the grants pool and recipients – and does so with a personal interest and stake in the matter. Her critique is based on the fact that the grant money should help broaden and better the field of literature, incite diversity and spur authors. And, might I be so bold to add in my own reading of some of her points, to give literature a leg up in the publics’ knowledge. The problem is that some of the more popular writers, are almost given a continuous grant, year out and year in, which goes against the Skov’s notion of giving grants as an aid, where it is most needed. And while I am almost all the way in agreement with her, this is also where I would like to clear my throat a couple of times. I do solemnly swear by giving literature of all flavors a boost, to help growth and to avoid stagnation in a genre or style. But I am also an advocate for rewarding good penmanship, and have sympathy for the fact that many times, the grants are well given. The main problem, I feel, is that there is so damn little money to go around. And with a reduction of 75 % (I will say it again 75% goddammit!!) there will be a slim to none chance that the pool will be giving money out to experimental literature. Some people are of the notion that literature is to serve a specific purpose, others that it should avoid being locked down and so on and so on.

The funny thing is that, in all of this debate about the money and the distribution and the people who benefit or not, there is something uncanny rearing its ugly head every once in a while. And it is called the little green angry monster. You know the one: he doesn’t really like himself, or is not really that confident, and yet, he persistently bashes people on the head with how inadequate they themselves are. Example: while the debate has very understandably awoken the legitimate question of why grants are given to whom and how much is enough, some tend to go a little overboard in playing the victimized party of an overlooked genre OR the beneficiary who really only applies for money because he CAN get it (!!!). There is a righteous and pious attitude that tries to downgrade other styles or institutions on a not very factual base that really is not becoming. I think it is possible to be very critical and mad as hell at the system, the people, the situation and still have a pretty strong argument without resorting to snide comments.

And while I feel that the grant pool should become subject to scrutiny and perhaps some structural changes if it is found to perform inadequately, I will still gladly give my support right now to the event on Saturday, with the hope that money for literature will not be seen as a handout to money-grubbing, sucking-on-the-state’s-tits-without-giving-anything-concrete-back recipients, but an investment in members of the nation who provide mobility, give voice to areas that need given a voice, and someone to be proud of.

Literary hit or bust

Sometimes when you defy your inner voice it can be incredibly rewarding. And sometimes its just the opposite…. and sometimes it’s a mix of both! 🙂

Example A: Me.
I go to the library on a regular basis. Sometimes its a quickie, when I return books or pick them up, making sure not to look over at the quick-loan-suggestion-shelf and resisting the urge, nay commanding my legs not to walk up to the first floor to literary nirvana. Because I really don’t have time to indulge my good ‘bad habit’. I have responsibilities! But the other day I defied both defense mechanisms and went over to the quick-shelf AND walked the stairs up to the first floor. Initial result: 5 books in various sizes, huge smile, ecstasy (those who get a kick out of buying something, anything, will know exactly what I mean). Digested realization process: panic, nervous smile, performance anxiety (what the hell was I thinking?!! I already have 2 loans at home! When people see them on my coffee table they will go “ooohh-aaahhh, you read THAT much”, and I’ll have to go “yeah, pfff, of course, no prob, it’s a passion”, while 007-silently vamoosing over to the computer and hauling a summary of each and every book, just in case somebody asks. And it’s not cool to return a book without reading it!! what’s the point then?!)

Various library books

Ensuing scene: I start on one book, realizing it’s not really me. How do I know? I fell asleep in my chair. Alright, next one: even worse, it does nothing for me, it’s about a guy who decides to go hermit and picking up a long lost love for painting by doing a mural in his new establishment; a lighthouse! Yawn, zzzzzz…
Conclusion: I have decided to just let go of these two books and hope the next 5 will be better. Not so much panicky anymore, because really, is it that serious? It’s a book. But yes; in a way it is! I checked out Hildegard by Anne-Lise Marstrand Jørgensen a couple of weeks ago, and only had 50 pages to go when time was up and I had to return it. And now I will never know how it ended!!
Sub-conclusion: I have to stop being Mrs. Goody Two Shoes and just defy return deadlines (even though that really goes against my deep faith in the whole library ideology, I just can’t do it).
All in all, the risk of loaning books in bonanza mode is not counterbalanced by the enlightenment these books could offer. To top it off, I had a temporary memory loss vis-a-vis the many books on my table at home and bought 2 books that I just have to read immediately: Baldursdóttir’s “Karitas uden titel” (Karitas without title) and Wassmo’s “Et glas mælk, tak” (A glass of milk please).

Wassmo and Baldursdóttir

I give up trying to understand myself and my compulsive desire to drown in books. I feel like Scrooge McDuck swimming in his coins (fact: I want a tank of books I can swim in!)
If anyone has a good tip on how to center oneself a bit more, or a good mantra to stay focused when in a library, drop me a few lines.

Books and McDonald’s

Are you familiar with the phrase: “There is no such thing as a free lunch”? It is the notion that something always comes at a cost, whether it is hidden or apparent, the individual or society at large always pays the bill. This phrase came to me as I was reading how Detroit Public Library in the USA, and McDonald’s have joined forces to get little kiddies to read more! And how do these two institutions propose to do this: well, every time a kid checks out a book, they get a stamp in a little McDonald’s bookmark by the sweet librarian, and for every five stamps (that is every 5th checked out book) the critter gets a Happy Meal. I’m sorry, a-what-now? Is the situation in Detroit really sooo bad, that the public library feels the need to take up with a major fast food chain that deals in fats, sugars and every known additive known and unknown to the masses, subverting nutritional values and blurring the lines between profit-business and communal enterprises, in order to get kids to read a book or two? Do they not see the blatant ironic twist to their plan?

Photo by Jason Rzucidlo - ©

How is it that the gatekeepers of knowledge are being reduced to check out clerks for burger joints? And how on EARTH (pardon, getting worked up here) is it remotely a good idea for the child’s mental nourishment to link the joy of reading with a Happy Meal at your local McD? I can absolutely see the win-win-win situation for McDonald’s, but I simply can’t get my head around why, oh WHY, a library would sink so low to get a reading audience. Do more active field work, for god’s sake! Educate and involve parents, introduce children to literature with active involvement, don’t send them down fatty, mind-droning, brainwashed lane!
I find this piece of information truly disturbing, borderline ridiculous. Imagine going to your dentist, getting your dental exam only to whip out the coupon for your very own free gallon of Coke, and have him stamp it (for all your hard work in the chair!).
Reading is a very complex cognitive process, that requires awareness and interpretation, fast food dulls your senses. I weep, truly…
So you tell me, would you send your kid down to the library with his/her own McDonald’s punch-card and rest easy in the fact that, ‘at least she/he is reading’? Is the lunch worth it?

A day at the library

I did it. I finally hauled my backside off the nice armchair, away from my cozy little den I call home, defied all common sense and biked 10 km down to my university library.

I love the library and I don’t mean the casual “uh, I love taco’s”-statement or “I loved the game yesterday”, I mean over-the-moon-smittened-butterflies-in-stomach kind of love. The first thing I do when I move to a new place is finding out where the library is. I like to browse through the bookshelves, touch the covers, read the back, keeping an open mind. I like the silence, the joint agreement of a group of strangers passing each other by the shelves, a nod here, a smile there. The smell of books, ah, there is nothing like it in the world.

My library doesn’t smell quite like a library should though. The architects, I guessed, found the cramped, shabby, dark atmosphere too uninspiring, so they opted for at glass facade, light colors, and in my personal opinion, very few bookshelves. Everything is open, not a nook in sight.

But somehow that’s ok, because my university library is not really a library in the old sense of the word for me. This library is for when I need a place to read (read: own material, away from home, because somehow I never get to the studying part there), to write on my exam projects, or if I need to be in the presence of other people. The only downside to it is that because it is so open and light (my theory, no stats behind this claim) people tend to use it as a place for study groups, and the practice of not using phones or talking out loud in the library has changed to taking a call on the stairs and laughing about a youtube clip or the latest reality show on TV. But it’s not loud all the time, and those moments are worth the silent teeth grinding ones 🙂

My town library on the other hand is an old school, except when, between 10 am to 2 pm, it is turned into a school library. But even those kids are more quiet than what can be expected here. It’s a small two-storey library with nooks and silence. It smells of, and is filled with… you guessed it; books.

I love the library. When I grow up I want the biggest room in my house/flat/cardboard box to be filled, jammed, crammed with books.