Small Stacks

A couple of reading lists, nine titles ordered and delivered to Halle Library on behalf of the First-year Writing Program, and then another pile, an odd-stack, maybe I’ll get to these this summer and maybe I won’t, read bottom to top and top to bottom, shuffled and reshuffled depending on where I leave a copy, depending on what time I have, depending on mood and disposition and weather and gut bacteria, depending on nothing much at all sometimes.

For Halle Library, nine titles.

I am reminded upon posting just the one photo (above) that reading habits run a fickle, snaking course–meandering and irregular, never especially disciplined-seeming except perhaps in their continuing, on-going. Anti-library, nomad-habit, ambivalence, juxtaposition, re-reading, crumb trails, low on fucks or high, intention and purpose or their lacunae, and then add to it finishing up with writing one’s own books, with others or solo, mid-careering, wondering only but so effortfully what’s next and why would this be next but not that. Not the most strenuous May-June ever, litotes.

The Little Mushroom the Englightened Yogi Secretly Stayed With, Untroubled

Implicitly (until now) there is some kind of faint jostling between these stacks, different microlibraries, hints of interest and curiosity washed back by life and distraction, laziness and Netflix, accidental and well-intentioned anti-library, I meant to read you. I really did. I was going to. I was going to read everything.

There’s much missing here, too, another gift, Murakami’s The Strange Library, a couple of books from Ypsilanti Public Library due last night by 11:59 p.m. whose deadline I beat by an hour to renew–a miracle–even though they’re all read, finished, complete, ready for the return slot. Read with greater urgency the books that go back, temporary visitors, ones who would if they could but who cannot stay.

CCCC Vendor Booklists

It’s only a partial list–titles from Pittsburgh, Southern Illinois, and Parlor–collected into a PDF after gathering them at the most recent CCCC book exhibit. Got me thinking about how it would be nice to have such lists compiled and aggregable, year after year, a kind of time series list amenable to isolating years or small clusters of years just for noticing what was circulating at the time. I’d picked them up in the first place because we have a tiny sliver of funding for supplying rhetoric and composition/writing studies focused books to Halle Library on campus, but when I mentioned this to a colleague, she asked for the complied PDF, too, because it carries over readily to placing more direct requests to libraries for end-of-budget-year acquisitions.

2016 CCCC Vendor Booklists by DerekMueller


The Reanimation Library
in Brooklyn (via)
offers a collection of discarded and found books not likely to be held elsewhere:
curios, out-of-print, wonders. Here librarianship is inflected with an art
aesthetic (perhaps more outwardly or radically than in the common case). There seems to be more than rarity justifying the in-status of the
books; but it is a sort of rare collection, one inflected with the idiosyncratic
impulses and tastes of the collector. The 600-book collection raises the question of whether it is
simply an installation called by the name of library. The mission

The Reanimation Library seeks to assemble an inspiring collection of
resources that will facilitate the production of new creative work and
promote reflection and research into the historical, legal, and
methodological questions surrounding the adaptive reuse of found materials.
It strives to provide the necessary space and tools to allow these
activities to flourish, and to foster a climate of spirited collaboration.

"Adaptive reuse of found materials" and so on: sounds like ideas that would
serve well as the guiding impetuses for a composition course–one I’d like to
teach, anyway. The Thingology entry refers to
this recent
report from the Minneapolis City Pages
; both of them mention
Dewey’s Nightmare, a
playwriting experiment tied to the Reanimation Library in which seven writers
wear blindfolds and pick one book each randomly from the stacks. Their
challenge, then, is to shape the random sample into something for the stage.
Quite a methodology, and one not unlike the stuff Sirc discusses in "Box-Logic":
the found collection, the interplay of contingent samples and selections,
renewal in re-coordinating affinities, pulsion, etc.

Don’t miss the
or the pile of

Ways of Working

Saturday morning I was lounging around the living room, looking after Is.,
and flipping channels on the television for a few minutes, when I stopped on
C-SPAN2’s Book TV. They were running a three-hour

interview with Nell Irvin Painter
, the historian who wrote, among other
things, Standing At Armageddon, a book I read a few years ago during

I don’t watch much Book TV, it turns out, so I don’t know whether it is
typical for them to break from the interviews to give quick little documentary
segments on the processual nuances for the featured writer. But they did
so for Painter, and it happened to come at the very moment when I was checking
out the program. The up-close look at the way Painter works comes between
1:01:18 and 1:15:16 if you are inclined to check it out via the Real Media file
provided by CSPAN.

Painter talks about the way her meandering process picks up late in the day.
She talks about how she creates, names, and saves her computer files (a new one
for each day, recently), how kayaking "helps" as part of her methodology, how
she writes in books she owns, and how she senses that her home in the
Adirondacks affords greater concentration. There is more: on her
dissertation, on cut and paste, on her use of a thesaurus, on working with
editors through revisions, on Row ("Roe"?), the friendly cat who crashes the
interview, and on how she keeps her library. It is a fifteen-minute
segment with a long list of writerly insights; Painter begins by saying, "I
would not recommend my way of working to others." Who would?

I was also interested in the moment when she talks about how she reads books,
how she develops personal indexes on a separate sheet of paper.
Productive, indexical thinking is something I have tried to make more tangible for
students in recent semesters. I like to hear people talk about it, and, in
fact, even though Painter’s way of working seems like what you would expect of a
historian academic (i.e., there is nothing shocking here), I wish we had more
documentary segments like this. Fifteen minutes on how I work (most of the
time): I’d love to see these for a long list of people. Maybe I am alone in this

Whether or not I am, it suggests to me an alternative the longer,
multi-voiced documentaries of composition we have seen recently in Take 20
(emph. pedagogy) and Remembering Composition (emph. digitality). And I
understand the slim chance of seeing documentary film (or video) shorts become a
more regular feature of any journal (whether online or distributed as DVD with
the paper copy)–low odds because its dissymmetry with ten(ur)able scholarship
at many institutions. Without loosening the lid on that argument, this is
just to say that I’d like to see more of it–more writerly documentaries, that

Transparency for Library Recalls

Another one of the books I have out from the library was recalled the other
day. It’s due to be returned tomorrow. I’ve been holding onto it until the
last possible moment because I wanted to eek out what
notes I could
about the one chapter that interested me (whether any of it finds a place in the
diss is undecided…one of many undecideds). The library has
recalled maybe six or eight books from me in the three years I’ve been at
Syracuse. Often the book has been on my shelf for longer than its initial
check-out period. Our libraries at SU make it very easy to renew online:
bad for patrons who are put off by the "checked out" designation; good for my
temporary collections.

Continue reading →

Re Collection

Walter Benjamin, in "Unpacking My Library," writes

The most profound enchantment for the collector is the locking of
individual items within a magic circle in which they are fixed as the final
thrill, the thrill of acquisition, passes over them. (60)

Today, I’m thinking of my exam areas and the respective lists–collections,
really–as temporarily locked items in magic circles. I’m semi-officially
in the exam phase of my program of study, and although I have yet to type up a
reflective essay (a post-coursework "Stuff I’m Thinking About") and get
thumbs-ups from the grad committee in the fall, my lists are


With a streak of good, steady studying, I hope to examine in November.

Continue reading →