If A=B and B=C, then A=C, or “…you will thank me later.”
You know, there still seems to be that puzzling question among some members of the general public regarding what we librarians do beyond the traditional stereotypes. I mean, how many times have you been asked, “You went to school for this?” My stock response: “Well, it’s not rocket science, it’s library science!” Yes, librarians today do much more than sshhh people and locate books, but really when it comes down to it there is probably no aspect of librarianship more satisfying than the simple act of connecting people with good books.
Back in the early 90s I read an interview with Neil Gaiman and he was asked, “Who are you reading right now?” He replied, “Jonathan Carroll.” Now, I had never heard of Jonathan Carroll before, though I liked the literary quirkiness of Gaiman, who was in the middle of writing The Sandman at the time. Then it dawned on me, the names connecting like parts of a mathematical equation: I liked Gaiman. Gaiman liked Carroll. Therefore I’d like Carroll. Eureka! Simple enough, right? I immediately tracked down some of Carroll’s books and have been following his work ever since. Incidentally a few years ago I met Neil Gaiman and, reminding him of that interview, thanked him for recommending Jonathan Carroll. I asked if there was a possibility that they might some day collaborate, as he did in the Gaiman/Pratchett classic Good Omens. Gaiman replied that he’d be too excited about reading what Carroll was writing to be able to keep up on his end of the collaboration.
A few years ago I went to a reading by Jonathan Carroll. I asked, hoping for another epiphany, who he was reading. “Haruki Murakami", he replied. “Of course”, I thought to myself, noting the similarities. I was already very familiar with Murakami’s work. Carroll certainly flirts with magic realism, as does Murakami, though Murakami adds a healthy dose of believable absurdity to his magic realism…a kind of “magic absurdism”. Murakami is one of my favorites and I had hoped Carroll would do what Gaiman had done so many years before and turn me on to a writer who I wasn’t familiar with. Nevertheless, I was still intrigued by the connections, from Gaiman to Carroll to Murakami.
Recently I had a library patron ask for books by Haruki Murakami. The problem with Murakami books at Jefferson Market is that we hardly ever have any because they are always checked out, which I guess is a good problem, unless of course you are the one looking for the books. I explained this to the patron and said if it was the quirkiness of Murakami he liked then I could definitely find something similar. “Well,” he said, “what are you reading?” I smiled to myself. At the time I was reading short stories by Raymond Carver, which at first glance you might think is worlds away from Murakami, but not really, and if you happen to know the connections between Murakami and Carver you know what a wonderful coincidence this was. “Right now I’m reading Raymond Carver,” I said. “For me, he is one of those what-if-you-were-stranded-on-a-desert-island authors”, meaning if I was stranded on a desert island with books by only one author, I’d probably pick Carver. “And coincidentally,” I said, “Murakami translated Carver’s work in Japan and they were actually very good friends up until Carver’s death.” I told him the story of how Carver, when he died, left a pair of his shoes to Murakami. “Carver is like Murakami, without the quirkiness, but trust me, you’ll like it. You’ll love it. Once you read this, you’ll want to read everything by Carver. You’ll need to read everything by Carver. …and you’ll thank me for it. But now if it’s really quirkiness you’re after….” Then all those simple connections came full circle. My patron left with books by Gaiman, Carroll, and Carver. He came back for more Carver, and to thank me.