Thank you, LA County Voters

First, ballot box budgeting is a terrible idea.

However, yesterday, Los Angeles passed Measure L to help keep the library doors open longer.

For me, the library was the only real home I ever felt I had growing up. With the combination of Asperger’s and young parents, home was a miserable place with family who neither understood or nor enjoyed me as child. In a world where nobody but psychologists had ever heard of Asperger’s, school was the same way, with kids and teachers who didn’t like or understand me, save for a few special, understanding people. Books were one universe where I was welcome, and the library was a wonderland of acceptance and adventure and comfort I never felt anywhere else.

Libraries are still wonderlands in the city, stocked with places within places, worlds within worlds, a quiet spot that embodies the history of place and our slipperly commitment to democratic literacy.

There is a lot of criticism. Oh, the measure is “union-backed”–like that’s a dirty word somehow. “Fire and police will suffer.” Only if we’re too short-sighted to deal with revenues properly. And, btw, where were the firemen and policemen speaking out to protect the library budget when it was going under the politician’s axes to preserve their cut of the pie? And–one more thing–the LAPD had better hope that its future budget not rely on voters because it still has a lot of history to live down, unfortunately.

Ballot box budgeting is still a bad idea, but at least this one does my heart some good.

St. Paul is not a suburb, I’m just saying.

Apparently in the US, anything that isn’t Manhattan, is a suburb.

In The Morning News’s Tournament of Books, this morning’s judge eliminated a very good novel, Kapitoil, in favor of Jonathan Franzen’s yucky novel Freedom, which I spent a hateful week forcing myself to finish.

What sent me over the top in the face-off was the reviewers’ insistence that Franzen’s novel was set in the suburban midwest and her referral (and Franzen’s referral), over and over, to suburban St. Paul.

St. Paul is the capital of Minnesota. Yes, in recent years, Minneapolis has worked to hard-brand itself, but St. Paul itself has suburbs; it is not a suburb. If you want to set a novel in suburban St. Paul, you have to pick something like Oakdale. Try that. St. Paul is a city, and a nice one.

Minneapolis and St. Paul are two separate cities, and always have been.

To the coastal denizens of the literary world Franzen sells to, there surely is nothing more dull-sounding than the words “Midwest” or “suburb”. Putting the words “Midwest suburb” together for those people is cultural shorthand, like saying “feminist voter” to a brand of Tea Partier.