17 November 2014

Review: Station Eleven

Station Eleven
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel opens with washed up Hollywood actor and tabloid darling Arthur Leander having a heart attack on stage during a production of King Lear at Toronto’s Elgin Theatre. As a former paparazzo turned paramedic-in-training performs CPR and the curtain is dropped, a young girl watches from the wings as the nice man who gave her comic books only hours before dies. Little does anyone know that the world as they know it has begun to unravel, and nearly everyone in the audience will be gone in mere weeks, dead from a massive flu pandemic.

Years later, a troupe of nomads calling themselves the Traveling Symphony move from settlement to settlement along the Great Lakes through southwestern Ontario and northern Michigan performing music and Shakespeare – harkening back to an earlier time when theatre and the arts was salve to a world reeling from plague. Along the way they encounter pockets of humanity surviving in a world without electricity, gasoline, and medicine; a new generation where the trappings of what was the modern world before it collapsed are fading into history.

Scavenging through abandoned houses among the bones of the dead, Kirsten – who’s only memory of the collapse includes an actor who treated her kindly falling dead on a stage – searches for her fellow actors stolen away from the Traveling Symphony by a mysterious prophet. As the acting troupe and the cult venture to the fabled Museum of Civilization, they discover that they have more than a passing connection stretching back to that fateful performance of King Lear.

I'm conflicted about Station Eleven. I've come to the conclusion that I did like it... and actually liked it quite a lot... but that there were some stylistic things that I really didn't like. So it's a tough one.

I've also been reading the MaddAddam Trilogy at the same time, which is pretty brilliant post-apocalyptic writing, and I haven't been able to help comparing the two worlds. I found Station Eleven quite grounded and a bit more frighteningly plausible in the short term where Atwood really has a fondness for the ridiculous and really goes after the far end of the slippery slope.

I think my big problem with Station Eleven was it seemed to have one too many literary devices going on. Here we are in the past, then the present, then the recent past, now we're reading an interview, now we're back in the third person, now we're in the distant third... and all at sort of random times and duration. Perhaps a more even tone would have elevated the book to what I felt like it should be.

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08 November 2014

Connecting with Community Planning

Three ways that the Public Library can connect with municipal planning:

1. Align the library's strategic plan with the municipal government's strategic plan (or whatever documented goals and values that the municipality has in place). If the library and the municipality have disparate goals, they will always work at cross purposes and the relationship won't be productive.

2. Be involved in the municipality - what a CEO or manager are considered at a municipal level may differ from system to system (some are department heads, some are not) but in whatever capacity is appropriate, to work with other municipal employees and managers will mean that the library is thought of in terms of planning - not just including the library in municipal planning, but finding key uses for the library in fulfilling the goals set out by municipal planning.

3. Provide a proven track record - show concrete examples of how the library is helping to fulfill municipal goals through the annual report. If the library proves itself a productive member of the municipality by contributing to the goals of the municipality, then the library will continue to be included in municipal planning and be valued as a partner in that planning.

06 November 2014

Key Concepts from the Planning Classroom Session

Two of the ideas that stuck with me the most from the Planning classroom session:

1. Everything goes back to the strategic plan, and your strategic plan should be aligned with the strategic goals of your municipality.

2. Step into the future.

I guess the common thread here is anchoring. The strat plan anchors our decision making and keeps us on the path that we set out for the library. Stepping into the future anchors our planning - gives us the "why" of what we are doing. Why do we want to do this? Because it will lead to the future we envision for the library.

05 November 2014

Review: The Year of the Flood

The Year of the Flood
The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Really enjoyed this one, and having read it, I actually like Oryx and Crakebetter than I did when I read it alone. You could probably interleave The Year of the Flood and Oryx and Crake and have one big novel. Looking forward to finishing the trilogy with MaddAddam. The audio was read in multiple voices, all done well. The song lyrics of the Gardeners are brought to life with guitar accompaniment and occasionally others singing along. 5/5

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