Saturday, October 20, 2018

For 2020 Library Should Align Salem Reads with Our Salem

Even if the colors aren't quite magnificent, it's still pretty great
Make sure to get out before the rains start!

Poster in the foyer
At the Library the other day, I noticed the announcement for the 2019 citywide reading club selection.

The City doesn't seem to have updated their website, but Library Foundation has some info. About Good Morning, Midnight the publisher says
Lily Brooks-Dalton’s haunting debut is the unforgettable story of two outsiders—a lonely scientist in the Arctic and an astronaut trying to return to Earth—as they grapple with love, regret, and survival in a world transformed.
One reviewer calls it a "sparse post-apocalyptic novel."

So considering the urgency of climate disruption, that's apposite for sure.

Indeed, the Library Foundation says it
sees Salem Reads as an opportunity to increase the Library’s visibility, and act as a catalyst to bring the community together around shared values. The committee selected Good Morning, Midnight because the book has many dimensions that lend to broad community engagement. These include science education, climate change, species extinction, isolation, living in extreme environments, and disaster preparedness.
For 2020 the City and Library Foundation should consider The Death and Life of Great American Cities or, if that's too old a classic, some more recent book on urbanism and urban analysis. If non-fiction's not the thing, there's probably some novel that's appropriate. Whatever they choose, they should give strong consideration to making "the city" and the history of the city the thematic center for the selection.*

"Our Salem" is an important multi-year project to update the Comprehensive Plan, and it could be helpful to extend the set of concepts, vocabulary, and debate beyond the planning nerds, neighborhood advocates, and business interests, and to give people a broader foundation with "shared values" and terms in common for sharper debate and analysis.

* Heck, one of the main characters in Good Morning, Midnight is named Augustine! His namesake wrote on the City, of course, if also in a little different context. Still, that's a bridge, right there.

Postscript, May 16th, 2019

There never was very much chatter or press about the book and associated events, and I wonder how popular it ended up being.

Can we risk semi-spoilers now? The book seemed to rely on a trick ending and an unreliable narrator. It was a little gimmicky, and not wholly satisfying in that way. It also didn't end up having much to do with climate change, also. As an entree, then, to some urgent cultural and political questions, it may not have been very effective.

The Library's compiled a short-list for the 2020 selection, and it doesn't look to have anything to do with Our Salem or with "the city" as an object for thought and analysis.


Jim Scheppke said...

Thanks for your interest in Salem Reads. I hope you and your readers read Good Morning Midnight. It's a terrific book! As for your suggestion that next book selection contribute to the conversation about the "Our Salem" effort, I think that's a great suggestion. And I would recommend Happy City by Charles Montgomery as the next selection for Salem Reads: .

MikeSlater said...

I was going to suggest "Happy City" as well. Of course, Jim beat me. :-)

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

(Here's the site for Happy City. It has links to eight substantial excerpts in magazines and newspapers online.)

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Update: The Library's selection will not, it turns out, have anything to do with Our Salem.