Stephanie calls 'em like she sees 'em

Re LibraryThing:

Oh, you evil evil woman. You convinced me to sign up, and now I’m obsessed! Looking at my books. Looking at other people’s books. Thinking about what books to add to the collection. Thinking about books I know I own but can’t recall where they are. Linking to Amazon and inadvertently BUYING more books!

Evil, I say.

You know what I say to this? Guilty as charged. Obsession loves company, and all that.

an effective (and yet humorous) complaint letter

I get a lot of satisfaction out of a well written letter, especially when I have to approach some official body about what I see as a mistake on their part.

Writing a complaint letter is an art. Just the right combination of clean cold fact, logical argument, and subtle snark. The only problem with writing such a letter is that you don’t get to see the reaction when the person on the other end reads it. The blanching, in severe cases, when somebody realizes that they’ve been scre


wing with a person who (1) knows how to defend themselves; (2) is willing to do so; and (3) has jumped right to the punch line.

Not that I write a lot of these letters, you understand. Maybe five in my life, total.

Almost as good is writing a funny complaint letter. A letter where there’s no quite so much at stake, where negotiation is still open and personality might actually get you somewhere.


Which brings me to RivkaT’s letter to a law journal.

I don’t know RivkaT, and I only meant to take a brief look at her LivfeJournal because she and I share some books on LibraryThing that nobody else has. And my reward for clicking through? The letter she wrote and (unfortunately) never sent.

Clearly RivkaT is a lawyer of some kind, and writes for professional journals. Someday maybe I will record some of my own experiences with academic journals during the seventeen years I was first a graduate student and then a professor. But for the moment, RivkaT’s letter gives you a vague idea of what it’s like to be able to write — really write — and not be allowed to do that. She wrote (in part):

[…] the reason you liked this article so much was that it didn’t read like all the others you get. Thus, your attempt to flatten the language so that it reads more like a law review article is a mistake. I’ll give you the elimination of all the contractions; I’ll even give you most of the extra “that”s and “which”s. But understand that, while I am not a beautiful and unique snowflake, I can be a more engaging writer than you’re allowing me to be.

And in conclusion: You are preventing me from writing fanfiction. Well, you and the three other deadlines for actual work, but I blame you anyway.

Woot, RivkaT.

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The Girl in a Swing – Richard Adams

Richard Adams
This is one of those novels I haven’t thought about for a good while. It came back to mind because (of course) of LibraryThing.

The Girl in a Swing is absolutely nothing like Watership Down, no talking animals at all. Instead this is a story about love and obsession and ghosts, and it’s really spectacular. The main character is a young man from a stable family who has taken over his father’s fine china business in a small town in England. He has the slightest bit of extrasensory perception, which shows itself only rarely in his boyhood and young adulthood.

Traveling on business to Scandinavia, he meets a beautiful woman and falls in love. She is bright and funny and evocative, and she brings him out of his shell. She’s also secretive in ways that are vaguely alluring and disturbing both. In a matter of weeks it’s decided that they will marry. She will quit her secretarial job and join him in England. They marry in the spring, and the rest of the novel takes place over the summer.

This was a truly frightening and sad story, and it’s also a very well written one. There are several layers of things going on at any one time. I had read the book three times before I felt I had caught most of the subtle interwoven connections.

I recommend this book very highly, unless you really can’t stand to be frightened. There is no gore, you see no violence — anything like that happens well off-stage and is only approached from an angle, after the fact.

Oh and: this is one of the few novels set in contemporary England where I felt … I suppose the word is, at home. It felt real to me, as real as my husband’s home town and his friends and the extended family, in the way people talk to each other (and don’t). Also, I blame this book for a minor obsession with the history of fine china and porcelain. And if you’re wondering who the girl in the swing is — that’s an excellent question. I have thought about it alot, and I’m still not sure.

stumbling on new books

Leslie set herself up at LibraryThing (username leslief150), and in her list of five books was one I hadn’t heard about. It’s now on my library list (historical fiction almost always gets my attention). You’ll note also that The Canterbury Papers has a wonderful cover.

This is one of the great aspects of LibraryThing, the book-networking that goes on. And I’ve mean meaning to say: I have no affiliation with LibraryThing, nothing beyond a membership and keen interest.