About Me

Ithaca, New York
MWF, now officially 42, loves long walks on the beach and laughing with friends ... oh, wait. By day, I'm a mid-level university administrator reluctant to be more specific on a public forum. Nights and weekends, though, I'm a homebody with strong nerdist leanings. I'm never happier than when I'm chatting around the fire, playing board games, cooking up some pasta, and/or road-tripping with my family and friends. I studied psychology and then labor economics in school, and I work in higher education. From time to time I get smug, obsessive, or just plain boring about some combination of these topics, especially when inequality, parenting, or consumer culture are involved. You have been warned.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Another fluffy book

Yep, I'm back. #18 was Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World, by Vicki Myron with Bret Witter. In a word, awww. A sweet story for anyone who loves libraries and/or cats. I love both, so it's not too surprising that I enjoyed the book way more than I expected to.

Ostensibly, I checked this one out because my daughter loves animals, and I thought it would be something we'd enjoy reading together. Well, we did, sort of. After I read the first chapter aloud, E snagged the book, and spent most of the afternoon in her aerie tearing through it and chortling at regular intervals; I did the same Sunday afternoon. If, as I did, you somehow missed the national press the story received, Dewey is the true story of a kitten who, on a frigid January morning in 1988, was found shivering in the book drop of the Spencer, Iowa public library. After immediately charming the library's director (Myron, the book's principal author), he's adopted by its staff and patrons, and makes the library his home for the rest of his 19 years.

For the most part, this is an animal story. Cute kitten anecdotes abound: Dewey's taste for rubber bands and the library staffers' constant struggle to thwart it, his one and only great escape attempt, his enduring love affair with the Christmas tree. These could be saccharine, but aren't, really; the tone is simple and funny, with just a touch of down-home Midwestern. The cute cat stuff is also interspersed with details about the town and surrounding farm country, the library itself, and the author's own experiences growing up in a now-abandoned farm community, going on welfare to support her daughter after divorcing an alcoholic husband, and eventually returning to school for both bachelor's and master's degrees. Myron and Witter's prose is clear, warm, and genuine; the heartland corn pone comes on a little thick at times, but for the most part, it works.

The latter part of the story spends a bit too much time on detailing Dewey's rise to regional, national, and even international fame. Personally, I'd have preferred a bit less cataloging of all the interviewers, magazines, tourists, etc. that sought out Dewey, and more about how this notoriety affected the library staff, patrons, and community members. This is a minor quibble, though. Myron would probably call this good old-fashioned Iowa practicality, but this is a simple, warm-hearted story that (its title not withstanding) doesn't pretend to be anything more than what it is: a book about a cat, a library, and a small town. 4 out of 5 bookmarks.

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