Filed under dewey decimal project

Dewey Decimal Project: 447.09 GEN Merde Encore!

The 440s NewImagebring me to French. I’m still not up to actually learning a language and this book is thin and looks promising. It turns out that it’s mildly more interesting than reading a dictionary. I kind of hoped that literal translations of some of the expressions would have been provided, but I guess more functionality with French than I have is assumed.


Dewey Decimal Project: 439.1 WEX Just Say Nu : Yiddish For Every Occasion (When English Just Won’t Do)

As I continue through the 400s, I also strive to avoid having to learn another language. The 430s are German and Germanic languages and I decide on this book, Just Say Nu hich looks like it might not be a real learn Yiddish book to check off this decade.

It turns out that Wex has written something that’s a bit of a neither-nor. It looked from the cover—and the interior justified the impression—like a book that was meant to be a somewhat humorous look at Yiddish phrases and expressions, and it was, but Wex also couldn’t resist writing something that was also meant to be a serious text for learning Yiddish and as a result, the book doesn’t succeed at either goal.


Dewey Decimal Project: 422 RIC How Happy Became Homosexual : And Other Mysterious Semantic Shifts

As I get into the 420s tNewImagehe books are now shelved in the foreign language section. The 420s are the English language and most of what’s hear are books for ESL learners, so the pickings are slim. I spot this book and the title catches my attention, I’m curious about the transition of the meaning of “gay” and figure this might be an interesting book.

It’s not.

Grouped by category, it ends up being only slightly less dry reading than a dictionary with not especially compelling accounts of the shifts of meaning of various words and phrases. I found it so dull, in fact, that I don’t remember the promised story of the title.


Dewey Decimal Project: 417.7 MCW The Power of Babel: A Natural History of Language

I continue to circle towNewImageards the foreign language shelves, but there’s still some space left in the Dewey Decimal system before I get there. The 410s are linguistics, pretty much indistinguishable by the collection at the local library from the 400s, language. From there I selected this book, caught by the punning title.

Like Harrison in my last linguistics book, McWhorter allows himself into the narrative, but these end up being the weaker parts of the book, when McWhorter talks about such things as his French girlfriend’s dismissal of his use of the first-person plural where contemporary French usage has dropped that conjugation in favor of third-person plural or his difficulty understanding a regional dialect of German.

But outside of these personal anecdotes, McWhorter does a good job of explaining the variety of languages on earth, the shaky distinctions between languages, dialects, creoles and pidgins and how languages influence each other, all of which I found informative just in my usage of English in my own writing.


Dewey Decimal Project: 408.9 HAR The Last Speakers: The Quest to Save the World’s Most Endangered Languages

When INewImage looked at the 400s, it seemed a big chunk of the books were missing. Pretty much everything from 430 on. They had been there earlier when I had originally scoped out the library and considered the project before me, but now they were missing. A quick walk around the third floor solved the mystery: They had been segregated to a set of bookcases labeled “foreign languages.” This of course raises the question of what the point of having language text books in a library is in the first place—after all, even with renewals, that gives just nine weeks to learn a language, something that few, if any, books would be willing to promise. All of this is a question to be returned to later. The beginning of the 400s is more general linguistics and lives in the stacks of my library where you’d expect it to, between the 300s and the 500s.

The Last Speakers is part memoir and part account of what endangered languages are and why they matter. It’s a delicate balance to maintain, but Harrison manages to rise to the challenge.


Dewey Decimal Project: 391.6 YAL A History of the Breast

The 390sNewImage comprise “Customs, etiquette and folklore” which had a lot of books about fashion at my local library. I’m not that interested in fashion, but breasts, on the other hand, struck me as something worthy of spending a book reading about.

Yalom writes here about how breasts became eroticized in eroticized in Western culture, which is an interesting statement in itself as it’s easy to forget that the eroticization of the breast is culturally determined and not a human universal. 

Perhaps most interesting is how Yalom manages to uncover what is at best an implicit narrative in cultural history considering such things as depictions of the breast in art to find the story.


Dewey Decimal Project: 381.45 MIL Reluctant Capitalists: Bookselling and the Culture of Consumption

The 380s: NewImageCommerce, Communications & Transportation. I was tempted to read something about trains when I got here, but then I spotted this, a book about bookselling (with an implicit critique of capitalism in its title!). As my dream in life has been to retire into bookselling, I thought there could be no better option for this part of the Dewey Decimal project.

Written while Amazon was still a niche business and e-books were a perennial solution in search of a customer base, this is still a fascinating time capsule as independent bookstores underwent assaults first from mall bookstores then chains (with Borders and Barnes & Noble being the big bads of this era of bookselling). 

As guardians of culture as well as participants in commerce, booksellers have long been in a somewhat unique place in society and Miller makes a good case for her dubbing booksellers as reluctant capitalists. Even so, it’s startling to see how many business practices that seem like common sense, even to my distinctly non-business-oriented mind, were resisted by the bulk of booksellers. But given the fact that there are few other businesses which have such a broad and thin inventory (the only other instances that spring to mind are also culturally-oriented businesses: the record [sic] shop and the video [sic] store, both of which, if they still exist today are as anachronistic feeling as a cigar store Indian, although I think I might know where to still find one in Chicago). 


Dewey Decimal Project: 371.782 COL The Bully, The Bullied and the Bystander

By NewImagefar the best book I’ve read as I’ve worked my way through the Dewey Decimal System. Perhaps it’s because so much of what Coloroso writes echoes and is echoed by other books I’ve read on parenting, discipline and teaching, but it appears that there’s a clear consensus on how to deal with these sorts of situations and Coloroso does an excellent job of presenting the information.

The first useful formulation on the whole “don’t tattle” thing I’ve ever encountered:

Tattling: If it will only get another child in trouble, don’t tell me.

Telling: If it will get you or another child out of trouble, tell me.

If it is both, I need to know.

My kids aren’t of an age where this is relevant yet, but it will be and it’s good to have a succinct and cogent description of when telling is appropriate and when it’s not.

The core of Coloroso’s approach is in what she describes as three different kinds of families: The brick-wall family, the jellyfish family, and the backbone family. The brick-wall family is authoritarian in its nature providing a simplistic and harsh approach to things which effectively manages to also be a breeding ground for bullies. The jellyfish family, on the other hand is permissive and tends to have few if any rules and what rules there are may not be enforced. The backbone family is the ideal structure, authoritative rather than authoritative, with authority used as a means of supporting rather than curtailing as with the brick wall family. 

Coloroso’s most contentious assertion is that there are no innocent bystanders. By standing by and doing nothing in a bullying situation, the bystanders act as effective endorsers of the bullying behavior. As an alterative, Coloroso endorses teaching children to “will good.”


Dewey Decimal Project: 364.15 In His Sights: A True Story of Love and Obsession

A while ago, one ofIn His Sights my friends experienced life with an ex-boyfriend stalking her. I actually met him at one point when he came to a church picnic with my friend. I didn’t realize at the time that his presence was not entirely desired by my friend and he came across as charming and attentive towards her. This is all to say that the experience of stalking from the outside is not necessarily obvious. As Brennan herself writes:

But here’s what all the facts and all the psychology can’t tell you: what stalking feels like. Only when you’re in the middle do you know what it’s like being trapped in the manic melody of Boléro, building and expanding, constantly repeating itself, with no apparent release to interminable crescendo.
In Brennan’s case, her stalker has a huge amount of resources at his disposal, both financial and logistical as he apparently has contacts with people who can engage in troubling behavior that he would be unwilling to undertake himself. Overall, this is a brilliant look inside the experience of being stalked, written sufficiently well as to generate true empathy in the reader.

Dewey Decimal Project: 355.0213 JOH The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy and the End of the Republic

This was NewImagea fair amount of familiar rhetoric, and largely things that I agree with (although I’m more positive on trade than Johnson, or many on the far left, for that matter). Overall, though, perhaps because it was so familiar, I found it a bit wearisome of a read, not unlike listening to Pacifica Radio, which should be a fit for me and yet is not.