Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Your brain on teen literature

The teen librarian had an experience he felt might feature well on my blog. I was more keen on exclusive internet rights to his semi-famous Top Ten Books of the Year list. Perhaps this is some kind of test case for the 2014 list. Hmm.

Let us begin with the story, short as it is, unvarnished. Our teen librarian had been seeing a bumper sticker around town a lot lately. Here is what he took it to say, over and over:


He thought that this bumper sticker was a wry, quietly funny, zombie inspired bumper sticker, and was amused by its cleverness until, just recently he realized that the bumper sticker actually said:


The punctuation change steers us so dramatically out of the land of cannibalism that it makes for a nice little, funny story. However, since my blog thrives on rich social commentary, I needed a way to contextualize this story. I immediately delved into my associations with this story.

My first association with this story was to the book Eats, Shoots, and Leaves, which is one of a very select group of bestsellers about punctuation. All of the sudden I can't quite think of any of the other bestsellers about punctuation. Other than being a good title for a possible sequel to that book it was clear I should look into my second association for inspiration.

My second association was to a Damon Knight story that was made into a Twilight Zone episode. It was called To Serve Man. Close your eyes for awhile if you were planning on reading or watching this anytime soon because we are talking major spoilers ahead. Okay? In To Serve Man, very kind and powerful aliens come to earth. They have a book with them called To Serve Man as a sort of guide or Bible. This helps people trust these super powerful and helpful aliens even more. But at the end of the story our hero learns that To Serve Man is not a guidebook, it's a cookbook! You can see why I'd associate the stories. Unfortunately it does not serve to illuminate the teen librarian's story.

Finally, at a bit of a loss, I started thinking of poor Marcus, the teen librarian, out in our teen room, isolated back there, buying all those books about vampires and zombies and werewolves, witches and demigods, driving around to teen prisons to give talks. Posing for the covers of national librarian magazines and choosing master lists of all the YA graphic novels for libraries everywhere to purchase. I think of him going over to high schools and conferences and meetings in scattered cities and everywhere he goes seeing these weird zombie bumper stickers, "love people, cook them!", just everywhere. And I had a moment of shocking insight. Marcus is not long for us here. Some clever, fancy library system is going to snatch up our star librarian to be their library director. I give it a year, year and a half, tops. And he'll be a good one too, a really good Library Director, I mean, after some quiet time. A lot of quiet time.

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