Love Your Library, November 2021

It’s the second month of the new Love Your Library feature.

I’d like to start out by thanking all those who have taken part since last month’s post:

Adrian shared lovely stories about the libraries he’s used in Ireland, from childhood onwards.

Laila, Lori and Margaret highlighted their recent loans and reads.

Laura sent a photo of her shiny new library copy of Sally Rooney’s latest novel.

Finally, Marcie contributed this TikTok video of her library stacks!


As for my recent library experiences…


A stand-out read:

The Performance by Claire Thomas: What a terrific setup: three women are in a Melbourne theatre watching a performance of Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days. Margot is a veteran professor whose husband is developing dementia. Ivy is a new mother whose wealth hardly makes up for the devastating losses of her earlier life. Summer is a mixed-race usher concerned about her girlfriend during the fires rampaging outside the city. In rotating close third person sections, Thomas takes us into these characters’ inner worlds, contrasting their personal worries with wider issues of women’s and indigenous people’s rights and the environmental crisis, as well as with the increasingly claustrophobic scene on stage. In “The Interval,” written as a script, the main characters interact with each other, with the “forced intimacy between strangers” creating opportunities for chance meetings and fateful decisions.


Doorstoppers: A problem

Aware that I’m heading to the States for Christmas on the 14th of December (only a couple of weeks from now!), I’ve started culling my library stacks, returning any books that I’m not super-keen to read before the end of the year. A few I’ll borrow another time, but most I decided weren’t actually for me, even if raved about elsewhere.

I mentioned in a post last week that I’ve had a hard time finding the concentration for doorstoppers lately, which is ironic giving how many high-profile ones there have been this year – or even just this autumn. (For example, seven of BookPage’s top 20 fiction releases of 2021 are over 450 pages.) I gave up twice on Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead, swiftly abandoned Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr (a silly bookish attempt at something like Cloud Atlas), didn’t have time to attempt Tenderness by Alison Macleod and The Magician by Colm Tóibín, and recently returned The Morning Star by Karl Ove Knausgaard unread.

Why so many chunky reads this year, and this season in particular? I’ve wondered if it has had something to do with the lockdown mentality – for authors or readers, or both. It can be awfully cozy, especially as winter advances (in this hemisphere), to sink into a big book. But I find that I’m always looking for an excuse to not engage with a doorstopper.


I generally enjoy the scope, detail and moral commentary of Jonathan Franzen’s novels; his previous two, Freedom and Purity, which also numbered 500+ pages, were fantastic. But Crossroads wasn’t happening for me, at least not right now. I only got to page 23 on this attempt. The Chicago setting was promising, and I’m there for the doubt and hypocrisy of church-bound characters. But with text this dense, it feels like it takes SO MANY WORDS to convey just one scene or conversation. I was finding the prose a little obnoxious, too, e.g.

Of Santa the Hildebrandts had always said, Bah, humbug. And yet somehow, long past the age of understanding that presents don’t just buy and wrap themselves, he’d accepted their sudden annual appearance as, if not a miraculous provision, then a phenomenon like his bladder filling with urine, part of the normal course of things. How had he not grasped at nine a truth so obvious to him at ten? The epistemological disjunction was absolute.

Problems here: How many extra words do you need to say “He stopped believing in Santa at age 10”? When is the phrase “epistemological disjunction” ever anything other than showing off? And why did micturition present itself as an apt metaphor?

But anyway, I’ve hardly given this a fair shake yet. I daresay I’ll read it another time; it’ll be my eighth book by Franzen.


Do share a link to your own post in the comments, and feel free to use the above image. I’ve co-opted a hashtag that is already popular on Twitter and Instagram: #LoveYourLibrary.

Here’s a reminder of my ideas of what you might choose to post (this list will stay up on the project page):

  • Photos or a list of your latest library book haul
  • An account of a visit to a new-to-you library
  • Full-length or mini reviews of some recent library reads
  • A description of a particular feature of your local library
  • A screenshot of the state of play of your online account
  • An opinion piece about library policies (e.g. Covid procedures or fines amnesties)
  • A write-up of a library event you attended, such as an author reading or book club.

If it’s related to libraries, I want to hear about it!

23 responses

  1. Glad to hear you enjoyed The Performance, a clever idea well executed. And thanks for reminding me of why I should avoid the Franzen despite being persuaded to overcome my antipathy to his writing by an interview I heard with him.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ll have to figure out what my ideal Franzen mood is!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Well, I’ve read none of your choices yet, but as you can see from my post, I have been busy. Though my post today is more about Memory Lane: Thanks for the mention! I’ll enjoy reading my fellow-contributors’ posts later. Just off to do Library Duty .. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The Performance sounds great! I’m enjoying the Rooney, I think it might be my favourite of hers yet!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s great to hear!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. The Franzen sounds dreadful! I really don’t enjoy prose like that.

    I do read very big books occasionally, but they have to be exceptionally good to stop me getting bored. Two I can think of are Anthony Powell’s A Dance to the Music of Time (which I have in four volumes each of three books) and Ian Stephen’s A Book of Death and Fish. The latter was more of a trudge initially, but I’m so glad I persevered.

    I will try to write a post about my latest library visit (and how I’ve got on with the books) later today.

    I’m also keen to write something about the libraries I have been a member of over the years, as they bring back so many memories – not just of the books, but the location, atmosphere, my life at that time….

    Thank you for setting this up.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re right, books have to be very good indeed to warrant 500+ pages. I like the sound of A Book of Death and Fish!

      It would be wonderful to have you join in. Margaret’s post (above) is a lovely look back at her use of libraries.


  5. What a fascinating site and I linked through Margaret21 writing about her memories and now volunteering. I used to manage school libraries and had to push for staffing. One LEA had staffed libraries, ours was usually a full time teacher with very little time! Not sure what might be happening now.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for stopping by! My town’s library is the flagship branch and still has a large paid staff, but also relies on volunteers for shelving. I go in twice a week as a volunteer.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I’ve finished the Rooney but yet to write a review (what is there left to say??); I’ve had the Thomas in my reading stack for months – glad it was a stand out!; and the Franzen is waiting for my summer holiday…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m always interested to see how people rank the three Rooneys in comparison to each other. Conversations is still my favourite, but BWWAY was a close second.

      I had a rare moment the other month when I realized I was reading three novels by Australian women at once (the others were Sorrow and Bliss and The Weekend) — all terrific!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think my ranking would be Normal, Conversations, Beautiful – but have enjoyed all.
        Sorrow & Bliss in my top books last year, and The Weekend the year before.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Me too: I’m fascinated by the Rooney-Ranking. Even though that’s not the kind of thing that interests me about any other writer’s works!


  7. Micturition, madame? I believe you may be taking the piss, to coin a phrase.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. The Performance looks great (if it’s not too writing school exercisey for me!) and I love your assessment of the Franzen!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It didn’t strike me as contrived; it really worked!

      I’m sure I’m not being fair to the Franzen by picking out a random passage. I do enjoy his books in general and will be sure to try this again during a more suitable reading mood.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. “like his bladder filling with urine..” LOL/eyeroll emoji. I gave up on Franzen after Freedom. He’s just not the right author for me.

    I think you’re right, authors were housebound and just decided to keep the pages coming! 🙂 I pretty much always approach 500+ page novels with hesitation, so I am judicious about how many I attempt. Quite a few of my Classics Club books are doorstoppers so I’ve got to get cracking on them, though!

    The Performance sounds really good. I think I’ll add it to my TBR list.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Freedom was a favorite of mine at the time, though I wonder how it would stand up to a reread now. I guess editors were so glad to get something, anything from their big-name authors after Covid that they were loath to cut their manuscripts?

      Liked by 1 person


    Which is to say that I am still keeping this challenge in mind. But I have been reading so frantically in recent weeks that I haven’t even been taking the usual snaps of my regular reading, let alone the stacks that were blocking passageways in the later part of this year.

    Thanks for including the link to my wee video. I’ve made another (I’m aiming for them to be quarterly-ish) but haven’t gotten it up yet. Maybe I’ll manage to get it there for tomorrow and pretend that was my plan all along! LOL

    The interview I heard with Franzen about this new one was quite good: I’m uptodate with him, I think, fiction-wise, but haven’t felt the gnawing urge for this one…yet?


  11. […] The Performance by Claire Thomas (my review) […]


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