Six impossible things before breakfast.

A library science student's perspective on life, the universe, and everything.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Winter Reading and Novel Appeal Pt. 2

In this followup I'll use two more of Saricks' categories, Framing and Storyline, to catch up on some of my winter reading book reviews.

Framing: Julian Fellowes, Snobs
Though a first person novel, the atmosphere of the fading British aristocracy is the most memorable aspect of this book. Julian Fellowes is excellent at crafting interesting characters, but they are characters who are tremendously shaped by their environment. Rather than dynamic, action-oriented people, they are features of their social world, reacting to the atmosphere of fading luxury and elitism around them. Fellowes is well-known for creating the vivid world of Downton Abbey on television. Though a different medium, Snobs possesses the same power of transporting you into a past world, this time one of aristocratic elites, actors, and social climbers. The story is told through the eyes of a young actor with enough noble blood in his veins to put him in an interesting position: the ability to move in two social circles--that of his wealthy, traditional roots and the less polished, spirited world of the middle class. Through this perspective the reader watches the social rise of Edith Lavery: her determined air, the marriage to Lord Charles Broughton, and the reality she must deal with as a result of her choices. Fellowes' writing is bittersweet, dark, and sometimes nostalgic, and the novel becomes an entertaining comedy of manners with a sharp dose of social critique.

Storyline: Bill Willingham, Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall
Before reading this book, I wasn't familiar with the world of Fables, but Bill Willingham's conception is a modern twist of fairy tale characters intersected with the grit of reality. In this graphic novel, Willingham constructs a multi-layered plot of stories within a story. The setting is Arabia and the main character (or storyteller) is initially familiar: Snow White. But Snow is not a frightened girl in a forest, she is a confident woman serving as an ambassador with a serious warning for the Arab Sultan. When her advice is not taken, she uses her wits and her storytelling skills to extract herself from a dangerous situation. A complex and episodic read, Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall adds additional layers by using the work of eleven different illustrators to depict the characters and storyline. The variety of design and style visually makes this graphic novel unique from any others I've ever read. While there is some immediate resolution at the end of the book, the plot is left open to further episodes of Snow and her companions. A quick search on Amazon will show that the series is pretty extensive: there are at least a couple dozen books that fall into the main Fables serial or its spin off adventures.

There is one fairly major aspect of this system of appeal description that I haven't mentioned so far (or quite adhered to in these posts). Saricks hopes that we can use these categories to discuss reading options with patrons even if the we did not like a book. (pg. 72). It's hard to remember sometimes that a librarian's job is to be objective about the books in his or her collection; to provide the users with information and then leave it to them to decide what to do with it. Pushing one's own reading views or opinions onto a user definitely does not fall into this job description. Using terms of appeal allows you (at least to some extent) to describe a book based on its intrinsic stylistic properties rather than on your personal opinion of it.

Saricks, J. G. (2005). Articulating a book‘s appeal. In Readers’ Advisory Services in the Public Library (3rd ed., pp. 40-73). Chicago: American Library Association.

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