Do friendships form because of shared interests, or do those interests develop due to the friendship? Facebook reveals that music and film make friendships; books, not so much.
In his column in the Chicago Tribune today, Eric Zorn describes a particularly ugly incident that occurred at a library not far from where I live. Somebody set fire to a number of books at the John Merlo branch of the Chicago Public Library. Making matters worse, it appears as though the arsonist targeted the gay and lesbian books section of the library, which itself is located in a neighborhood with a large gay population. From Zorn’s column: Staffers detected the fire quickly and used an extinguisher to put it out before anyone was hurt. The library remained open, and if you visit there today, the only reminders of the incident are gaps on several shelves where destroyed books used to sit.But the location makes it a bigger event. For both symbolic and safety reasons, the idea of arson in the stacks, no matter how relatively unsuccessful, is chilling. Public libraries are not only embodiments of liberty but, with all that paper, prospective tinderboxes.More chilling still to many is that the unknown arsonist chose to set the fire in the heart of the Chicago area’s largest unified collection of gay and lesbian-oriented books.Zorn explores the topic further at his blog explaining why he decided to devote his column to what was, admittedly, a very minor fire, wondering “Do we not, in some ways, magnify the power of a hate crime when we publicize it?”I’m glad he decided to write the column. Coming on the heels of a book-banning attempt in a nearby school district, it’s been a rough couple of months for books in the Chicago area.Update: It turns out it wasn’t a hate crime. As Eric Zorn explains, they caught the culprit, a 21-year-old homeless woman who set the fire because “she was angry at library staff for being rude to her.”
Newly minted Paris Review editor (and polymorphous enthusiast) Lorin Stein runs down some recent pleasures for More Intelligent Life. To wit: Lipsyte, Dickens, Du Maurier, Nádas, Merle Haggard, newcomer April Ayers Lawson, the Lydia Davis Proust, outer-borough maniacs, and “proletarian erotica”…not necessarily in that order.
The Oxford American has made True Grit author Charles Portis’s “Motel Life, Lower Reaches” available online for the first time. The piece first appeared in an OA issue from 2003, and it’s also available in Escape Velocity, but you should still read it because it’s Charles Portis, damn it, and you’ve only one life to live in this world. (Related: Hobart just published their “Hotel Culture” issue, which is also worth your time.)