An anthology of short stories in defence of reading by some of the greatest practioners of the genre, including Isaac Babel, Italo Calvino, Jorge Luis Borges, Alice Munro, Lori Moore and H.H. Munro (Saki); In The Stacks, by America's leading librarian, is a volume of most unusual stories about that most evocative place: the library. Libraries are created worlds containing row upon row of shelves holding miles and miles of books. For many writers and bookworms the local public library was the portal the imagination first stepped across. In one volume, the cream of twentieth century short fiction - from Borges's 'The Library of Babel' to John Cheever's 'Trouble of Marcie Flint' to Lorrie Moore's 'Community Life' - about libraries and librarians, and the terrors and pleasures contained in books. Lunacy, love, obsession and the joy of reading are all gathered together in a volume most would agree is long overdue.
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There are some readers who will take one look at In the Stacks: Short Stories About Libraries and Librarians and yawn, and there are some who will pounce upon it eagerly. For those of us who find libraries strangely romantic, Michael Cart's anthology captures the duality of a place both private and public, both hushed and wholly congenial. Unsurprisingly, many of the stories are devoted to the stereotypical librarian: frustrated, spinsterish, and fussy. In Lorrie Moore's contribution, "Community Life," protagonist Olena goes to graduate school for English literature but ends up a librarian, lonely and unable to connect. Alice Munro explodes the library myth a bit with "Hard-Luck Stories," in which a librarian admits that her work "'really is one of those refuge-professions.' Which didn't mean, she said, that all the people in it were scared and spiritless. Far from it. It was full of genuine oddities and many flamboyant and expansive personalities." In the Stacks drags the library into the light of day: Anthony Boucher sets a mystery among the books; Walter R. Brooks gives us a Mr. Ed story; and there's some Ray Bradbury weirdness. The collection rightly ends with the glorious "Library of Babel" by librarian-seer-fabulist Jorge Luis Borges. --Claire DedererAbout the Author:
Michael Cart was for many years the director of the Beverly Hills Public Library. He is the author of many books, including Tomorrowland, a collection of short stories for young adults, What's So Funny: Wit and Humor in American Children's Literature, and From Romance to Realism: Fifty Years of Growth and Change in Young Adult Literature. In addition, he has been the children's book editor for Parent's magazine and is a columnist for Booklist.
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