Another Snake

Shortly after I posted the poem about accidentally mowing a snake into pieces (the headless fellow in the grass), I was given a chance to make some amends to the world of snakes.  My cat, of whom I never would have expected this, caught a snake and brought it to me.

The reason I wouldn’t have expected it is because this particular cat has a deep and abiding love for the indoors. About once a day, she stands at the door mewing desperately to be let out. Once the door is open, she ventures as far as the edge of the porch and has been known to remain there for as long as 90 seconds before spiraling into regret over the terrible mistake she’s made. Then she mews desperately at the other side of the door until someone lets her back in. Nobody would peg her as a snake catcher.

I didn’t count on her finding a snake in our basement. But the other day as I sat in the living room, typing away on my laptop, she came trotting up from the basement with something long and skinny dangling from her mouth. When she dropped it in front of me, it slithered. It slithered with amazing speed. She pounced, it struck at her, she picked it up again, it writhed away again, she batted at it and I realized intervention was needed.

After an untaped, never to be seen episode of Funniest Home Videos, involving me, the cat, the snake, lots of yelling, hissing, slithering, stalking, running, tripping over chairs, and ultimately, the use of a Rubbermaid container, I managed to set the snake free outside. Through great personal effort, I had saved it from my cat. And thus balance was restored to the universe.

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The pay off

My son is in middle school and bumping up against a dilemma faced by many writers. How willing should you be to sacrifice your artistic vision for  pay? In this case, the payoff is a grade. We’re finding, sadly, that the writing taught in language arts in our local schools is preparing the students to conform to the formula required on the MAP test (Missouri Assessment Program.)

In my son’s class, they’ve been working on memoir writing. He decided to write about how he came to be obsessed with Lego architecture, something that began with a trip to Chicago, where he discovered a Lego version of the Sears Tower. So far, so good. It’s not a bad choice for an 11-year-old. But he wanted to make his piece stand out. He told me he didn’t want to just write down a list of events. He and I brainstormed for a while and he came up with a pretty original writing plan; he would write a backward memoir.

So he started the piece with the most recent relevant event, then explained how it had been spawned by a previous event and how that had grown out of something that happened before, and so on. Right back to our trip to Chicago. He was pleased with  how well the idea worked and so was I. He had attained his goal of writing something that was interesting and stood out from the rest of the memoirs in the class.

Therein lay the problem. He wasn’t supposed to write something different. He got marked down because the scoring guideline states memoirs are supposed to relate events in the order they happened. Tell that to Dave Eggers. Hmph!

To be fair, the teacher presented things honestly. The students were told what to do to get the best score, and my son did decide to do it a different way. It’s a decision he’ll have to keep making. Does he want to find his own voice to do the best writing he can, or does he want the grade? In a way, the fact that Language Arts is not his favorite subject might make it easier for him to choose the higher grade. He’s a lot more passionate about science. On the other hand, he might have inherited enough of my personality to figure it’s worth sacrificing a grade in order to make a statement.

It’ll be interesting to see him choose his path.

Book List: Libraries

Time for another book list. I figure people who are interested in book lists are interested in libraries, so that’s my theme this time around. I haven’t included instructional books about how to use a library or decode a particular classification system, but I did find a fair amount of non-fiction to include.

Fiction

Applied Mythology
by Jody Lynn Nye
What will become of the not-so-mythical-after-all creatures who inhabit the basement of the university library when the old building is torn down?

Bibliophilia: a Novella and Stories
by Michael Griffith
Humor and sex and shushing all in one book.

The Body in the Library
by Agatha Christie
A Miss Marple mystery.

The Burglar in the Library
by Lawrence Block
Not a Miss Marple mystery, but a mystery nontheless. Bernie Rhodenbarr, actually but I like the way “Miss Marple mystery” sounds so much I made up an excuse to repeat it twice.

The Case of the Missing Books
by Ian Samson
Mystery. Where could 15,000 missing library books have gone in an Irish village?

The Destruction of the Books
Mel Odom
Sci Fi. It’s up to the librarians to save the world. Just as in real life.

Ex-libris
Ross King
A  quest to track down a missing library book. Set in the 17th century England.

The Geographer’s Library
Jon Fasman
Smugglers involved in alchemy operate secret libraries? This is one I’ve got to read.

Instant Karma
Mark Swartz
Conspiracy theorist and potential terrorist stalks the Chicago Public Library.

Library: No Murder Aloud
Susan Steiner
Mystery. I guess if they’re kept quiet, it’s okay.

Lord of the Libraries
Mel Odom
SciFi. Odom knows how to pick heroes. It’s the librarian to the rescue again.

Miss Zukas and the Library Murders
Jo Dereske
Mystery. What is a research librarian but another form of detective, really?

Mobile Library Mysteries – series
Ian Samson
Mystery. Series.

Murder at the Library of Congress
Margaret Truman
Mystery. And all over some old diary by a guy named Columbus.

The Name of the Rose
Umberto Eco
14th Century Monastic library, heresy, murders.

Open and Closed
Mat Coward
Mystery. Library advocates – can the threatened closing of their favorite facility lead them to murder?

The Story of General Dann and Mara’s Daughter, Griot and the Snow Dog
Doris Lessing
Want to save civilization? Find a library.

Non-fiction

At Home With Books: How Booklovers Live With and Care for Their Libraries
Estelle Ellis
The art and style of the home library.

Banned in the U.S.A.: a Reference Guide to Book Censorship in Schools and Public Libraries
Herbert N. Foerstel
Fairly self-explanatory I think.

Dewey: the Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World
Vicki Myron
Again, the synopsis is in the title.

Double Fold: Libraries and the Assault on Paper
Nicholson Baker
Who will save the historical newspapers? Nicholson Baker. Or at least he’ll try his darndest.

Free for All: Oddballs, Geeks and Gangstas in the Public Library
Don Borchert
Hilarious and alarming all at the same. And I’m in a position to tell you none of it seems exaggerated from an insider’s perspective.

Home Office: Library and Den Design
Tina Skinner
You got those books and things. How ya gonna organize ’em?

Homes and Libraries of the Presidents
William G. Clotworthy
U.S. Presidents, that is.

The Ideals Guide to Presidential Homes and Libraries
Peggy Schaefer
Again, U.S. presidents.

Interlibrary Loan Sharks and Seedy Roms: Cartoons from Libraryland
Benita L. Epstein
Really funny cartoons for those who frequent or work in libraries.

Libraries in the Ancient World
Lionel Casson
Starting with clay tablets.

Library: an Unquiet History
Matthew Battles
Viva la revolu – er, library!

The Library at Night
Alberto Manguel
Life = reading. Reading = life.

Patience and Fortitude: a Roving Chronicle of Book People, Book Places, and Book Culture
Nicholas A. Basbanes
An exploration of bibliomania and bibliomaniacs.

The Raven King: Matthia Corvinas and the Fate of His Lost Library
Marcus Tanner
A book about a Hungarian king and the place he and the library he built occupy in history.

Quiet, Please: Dispatches from a Public Librarian
Scott Douglas
Memoir from a library employee. More about the people than the books.

Reading Rooms: America’s Foremost Writers Celebrate Our Public Libraries with Stories, Memoirs, Essays and Poems
Publisher: Doubleday
An anthology, in case you hadn’t figured that out.

Unshelved Collection:
Bill Barnes
Cartoon series on library matters.