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last updated: may 1

The Last Page
by Rachel Singer Gordon

Should you happen to harbor the secret desire to become a librarian, be forewarned: There are but three stock responses to the revelation of your career choice.

1) "Shhhhhhh!"
2) "Marian... lovin' librarian..."
3) "Oh, isn't that nice - you get to sit and read books all day!"

(Of course, in the best of all possible worlds, a librarian's actual job is to fulfill one of the as yet unreached promises of the Internet, i.e., connecting people with information that is important and relevant to them. In the real world, librarians spend much of their time as do their counterparts in the for-profit sector. We unjam the copy machine, push papers around, pop over the top of our cubicles like overcaffeinated prairie dogs to see if the person two desks down has any M

I can't help you much with responses one and two above, but I now take statement three as an invitation to push on others some of the wonderful books I have been reading -- the same way everyone else reads, during commercials, on the train, squeezed in between making dinner and doing dishes and paying bills. Being a librarian provides an unparalleled opportunity to get people interested in books you like.

On that note, I share with you this month some of my recent reads -- and don't feel particularly obligated to become a librarian yourself before passing these suggestions along to others.


pope joan First on our random romp is Pope Joan, a novelization of the quasi-historical story of the only female pope ever to grace the Vatican. The provocative topic is interesting in itself, but the book's author, Donna Woolfolk Cross, cleverly utilizes technology to promote the book. The official Pope Joan web site not only gives the usual links to the background of the tale, interviews with the author, and so on, but contains an offer for the author to chat live via speakerphone or Internet with any book discussion group that reads the novel. She spoke with my group last week, and the interaction was a delightful addition to the usual discussion. Watch for the upcoming movie version in a couple of years!


expecting Next on our tour of my recent reading activity is Expecting Adam: A True Story of Birth, Rebirth, and Everyday Magic, a luminous real life account of the author's experiences during her pregnancy with Adam, a Down Syndrome baby. One has to appreciate any piece of writing which gracefully deflates the self-importance/involvement of Harvard professors and students (and, by extension, academia in general), but Martha Beck's book offers far more. She describes the transformative power of a variety of non-rational experiences she had while pregnant with Adam as a Harvard graduate student, and the power that he had in changing her family's attitudes, lifestyle, and definition of success.


after long silence After Long Silence: A Memoir, by Helen Fremont, describes the author's puzzling childhood. Her Catholic family always made sure to sit in the back of the church during Mass so that they could slip out before communion -- her mother describing the ritual as a quaint American addition to the service she had known as a child in Europe. Fremont knew that her mother had been in a concentration camp and her father in a Siberian labor camp during the war, but little of the rest of her family's history. After years of silence and omission, she and her sister decide to research their own family, finding out more than they ever expected. Their questions prove highly unsettling to their parents, especially their mother, who had for years kept the illusion of safety by denying the family's Jewish past. The book is of interest not only in light of the recent Madeleine Albright revelations, but also as a work of literature in and of itself, exploring issues of family, history, and the power of secrets.


secret code Lastly, here's a warning regarding a book on which you shouldn't waste the time it takes to pick it up off the shelf. Paul Meier and Robert Wise's The Secret Code is a poorly written, cliched, heavy handed attempt to cash in on the dual crazes of millenialism and secret codes hidden within the Bible. It contains all you might expect: German neo-Nazis and Russian neo-Communists, complete with accents and evil plots, autistic savant who breaks out of his shell to save the people who care about him and his sister, Palestinian suicide bomber, over-zealous Israeli secret service agents, and, oh, a neutron bomb explosion in Jerusalem. Meanwhile, we learn about the main characters' conversion to "Messianic Judaism" due to the fact that Jesus' Hebrew name, Yeshua, appears in those secret codes hidden in the Bible. It's unfortunate that this novel managed to get itself published, and doubly unfortunate that I took the time to finish it.


Consider this column as overt an attempt as we librarians ever make at recruitment. Go forth and read, pass on the knowledge, and be all that you can be.

b i o
Rachel Singer Gordon is a reference/computer services librarian with an affinity for both books and technology.



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