Earthbound concerns of an ascendant adult

Whose Library’s Best

with 2 comments

My alma’s hosting [1] a Book Collection Contest, wherein applicants submit a collection-describing essay, plus an annotized [2] bibliography of 25 sample books. Of course, I hear about this after I’ve graduated. Never before. The spiel:


The first round of judging evaluates a collection based upon the quality of its description in the essay and bibliography. Collections and books may be on any subject, but the judges favor collections that are clearly defined. Successful essays define the collection and describe the books persuasively, and the winning bibliographies reveal the collector’s knowledge of the subject. The judges, selected from the Friends of the Library, University faculty, and library staff, select four finalists. The finalists are asked to bring a selection from their collections into the library for display. The final judging of the display books will verify the decisions made from the written materials.


Contestants must be enrolled full or part time at the University of Minnesota.
Collections must consist of at least twenty-five titles collected and owned by the student.
Collections may be defined in any meaningful way.
Collections need not consist exclusively of rare or hardcover books. They may contain paperbacks, maps, manuscripts, or other materials.
Entries must include an annotated bibliography (include 25 to 50 titles), an essay about the collection (maximum of 1500 words), and an entry form.
Students may submit only one collection per year.
A winning collection may not be resubmitted in subsequent years.
Entries must be submitted on paper no later than 12:00 noon Wednesday, March 7, 2007 to George Swan, 170B Wilson Library.
The finalists will be identified and notified in early April. Finalists must bring a selection of 25-50 books to the library for exhibit in Wilson Library.

So, you’re not only bragging about your collection, you’re showing it off at the library as well. First prize undergraduates and graduates receive $700. Second prizers receive $500. All “four finalists will also win a year’s honorary membership in the Friends of the Libraries and will be the guests of the Friends at the Annual Dinner on April 17, 2007.” Lame! If I were in school, as we speak I’d be writing that essay—rather than a blog entry about wishing I could write that essay. Then again, past winners have won with real snoozers. Books previously cited by winners include Books Not Just for the Birds: A Collection of Avian History and Natural Biology, and Collecting Books about Rhetoric and Debate, and Books on the History of Vertebrate Paleontology, and A Century of Engineering. Those titles alone make me sleepy.

The question, then, is which from my collection would I submit? I present the following list, an attempt to distill—or encapsulate—my collection into its strongest, most definitive stuff, not impress you with ultra-weird, ultra-dull titles, though I have a few of those that I haven’t included but wouldn’t mind showing off. Fortunately, I’m not about impressing you, biotch:

(1) What’s Not to Love?: The Adventures of a Mildly Perverted Young Writer, by Jonathan Ames
(2) The Fermata, by Nicholson Baker
(3) Herzog, by Saul Bellow
(4) Dream of the Wolf, by Scott Bradfield
(5) Wonder Boys, by Michael Chabon
(6) The Journals of John Cheever, by John Cheever
(7) House of Leaves, by Mark Z. Danielewski
(8) A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, by Dave Eggers
(9) Independence Day, by Richard Ford
(10) Bad Behavior, by Mary Gaitskill
(11) The Safety of Objects/Things You Should Know, by A.M. Homes
(12) The Elementary Particles, by Michel Houellebecq
(13) Harold and the Purple Crayon, by Crockett Johnson
(14) Requiem for a Dream, by Hubert Selby Jr.
(15) Collected Poems, by Philip Larkin
(16) Well, by Matthew McIntosh
(17) Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell
(18) The Book of Disquiet, by Fernando Pessoa
(19) V., by Thomas Pynchon
(20) Blindness, by Jose Saramago
(21) Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson
(22) Early Stories, by John Updike
(23) A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, by David Foster Wallace
(24) Trainspotting, by Irvine Welsh
(25) In the Garden of the North American Martyrs, by Tobias Wolff

How to describe this collection? Most of my choices are, I believe, pretty standard for a guy in his early twenties interested in modern fiction. You have the heady, pop intellectual (Pynchon, Foster Wallace, Stephenson), the brutally ironic (Larkin), the transgressive (Homes, Welsh, Gaitskill, Houellebecq), the self-involved yet beautiful (Pessoa, Cheever, Ames, Updike, Ford), the sex-obsessed (Ames, Baker, Houellebecq, Updike again), the experimental (Mitchell, Danielewski, Foster Wallace), the depressive and solitary (Pessoa, Cheever, Houellebecq again), and the plain ole great (Foster Wallace, Ford, Bellow, Pynchon, Updike one last time). Then, from nowhere, you have the doesn’t quite fit in but no it does childhood favorite: Harold and the Purple Crayon. These are a solid ground, literature-wise, and somewhere, SOMEWHERE, in the b.g. Roald Dahl is lurking. I don’t mind that at all.

[1] This is not proper Latin of course, cause “alma” is an adjective w/r/t the NP “alma mater.” But I like the sound of that: “my alma’s hosting.” Forgive me this intentional error.
[2] ‘Annotized’ = cooler than ‘annotated.’

Written by patiomensch

February 22, 2007 at 6:26 pm

Posted in Books, Personal

2 Responses

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  1. This is my first post here and I am honored to have the opportunity to leave some of my own crappings. However my own blog seems to be locked up so Patio you are not getting away from me that easily. If I can figure out who to RSS your old work there I’ll hook a brother up with his book(How many words you got so far?)

    I wish I could enter the contest. My school money has run out and it looks like I’m going to have to start actually working to support my family. I would fucking win. Can I still enter and maybe not get the cash but some honorarium, maybe an honorary degree in English just for having so many goddamn books. Check on that for me, will ya?

    I will start my list off first with this:
    A complete collection of Grand Seićle Edition – The Masterpieces and the History of Literature Analysis, Criticism, Character, and Incident Edited by Julian Hawthorne, John Russell Young, John Porter Lamberton with Forty Photogravure plates COMPLETE IN TEN VOLUMES Copyright, 1899, y art Library Publishing Co. Copyright, 1902, E. R. Du Mont.E. The first volume seems to be autographed by Julian Hawthorne.

    What now Minnesota bitches?


    April 3, 2007 at 10:30 pm

  2. Lilsidd: where r u
    Auto response from patiomensch: Gerard Manley Hopkins

    How to kéep—is there ány any, is there none such, nowhere known some, bow or brooch or braid or brace, láce, latch or catch or key to keep
    Back beauty, keep it, beauty, beauty, beauty, … from vanishing away?
    Ó is there no frowning of these wrinkles, rankéd wrinkles deep,
    Dówn? no waving off of these most mournful messengers, still messengers, sad and stealing messengers of grey?
    No there ’s none, there ’s none, O no there ’s none,
    Nor can you long be, what you now are, called fair,
    Do what you may do, what, do what you may,
    And wisdom is early to despair:
    Be beginning; since, no, nothing can be done
    To keep at bay
    Age and age’s evils, hoar hair,
    Ruck and wrinkle, drooping, dying, death’s worst, winding sheets, tombs and worms and tumbling to decay;
    So be beginning, be beginning to despair.
    O there ’s none; no no no there ’s none:
    Be beginning to despair, to despair,
    Despair, despair, despair, despair.

    patiomensch: sup yo
    Lilsidd: commenting on your blog
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    patiomensch: Whose Library’s Best
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    patiomensch: the first two and this one
    Lilsidd: whats “this one”
    patiomensch: I’m going to read them all over again, just a sec
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    Lilsidd: thats the enw one
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    Lilsidd: bartending
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    April 3, 2007 at 10:42 pm

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