Recommendations For Joy, Ep. 215

By The Librarian Is In
April 21, 2022

Welcome to The Librarian Is In, The New York Public Library's podcast about books, culture, and what to read next.

How to listen to The Librarian Is In

Subscribing to The Librarian Is In on your mobile device is the easiest way to make sure you never miss an episode. Episodes will automatically download to your device, and be ready for listening every other Thursday morning

On your iPhone or iPad:
Open the purple “Podcasts” app that’s preloaded on your phone. If you’re reading this on your device, tap this link to go straight to the show and click “Subscribe.” You can also tap the magnifying glass in the app and search for “The New York Public Library Podcast.”

On your Android phone or tablet:
Open the orange “Play Music” app that’s preloaded on your device. If you’re reading this on your device, click this link to go straight to the show and click “Subscribe.” You can also tap the magnifying glass icon and search for “The New York Public Library Podcast.” 

Or if you have another preferred podcast player, you can find “The New York Public Library Podcast” there. (Here’s the RSS feed.)

From a desktop or laptop:
Click the “play” button above to start the show. Make sure to keep that window open on your browser if you’re doing other things, or else the audio will stop. You can always find the latest episode at​​ ​​​





[Frank:] Hey. Hey. Hello, you all out there, welcome. Welcome to "The Librarian Is In", and as you know, it's the New York Public Library's -- or you might not know if you're a new listener, New York Public Library's podcast about books, culture, and what to read next. I'm Frank.


[Crystal:] And I'm Crystal.


[Frank:] And you're out of town.


[Crystal:] Yes, it's actually -- I'm -- it's Crystal and Koda [assumed spelling] because our family dog is right here wanting treats from me.


[Frank:] Koda, so CODA just won the Academy Award for Best Picture.


[Crystal:] Koda with a K, I think it's from that cartoon. Yeah, but he is -- yeah, he's giving me his like puppy dog eyes. He's a fairly large Pomeranian, but I have nothing more to give him.


[Frank:] Well, when you're when you can focus back on me, I'll wait. Yeah, [inaudible] Jefferson Market as usual, distracted. I mean, I swear, I think I said this before because I've said everything before, but I -- sometimes I'm reading and I start thinking about where I'm going to put a table in Jefferson Market because I'm just preoccupied all the time with getting us ready to open.


[Crystal:] Which is soonish. Right?


[Frank:] Yeah. I mean, it's early summer, late spring. You know? We won't know an exact date probably 'til like 5 minutes before, but it's sooner than later as I always say over and over and over and over. It's not three years. It's going to be gorge.


[Crystal:] I'm looking at the interior right now because you're in the building, and it's looking good.


[Frank:] Yeah, they I'm in the basement and -- with those brick arches, and we're going to polish the concrete floor. And I'm looking at -- they can tint it a little bit, looking at the colors. And what's cool is that this is so unimportant to anybody, anywhere, but I'm interested. In the lobby, we had this terrazzo from the '60s renovation when the building was converted from a courthouse to a library, so like 60 years ago. And they put terrazzo with gold banding or like brass bands. And I grew to love it because it's so of its time, and now that's gone. They've covered it over with this beautiful stone. But downstairs -- long story, my God, can I go on any longer? The floor was taken out completely just because we decided just to take out the tile rather than put a new floor on top of that, get rid of it, and polish up whatever might be revealed below the concrete. And then what has been revealed is almost this natural kind of terrazzo formation. Like these little pebbles and stones have been mixed in with the concrete, so you get this pattern of terrazzo, which is like this sort of pebbly, little stones design. So, that excites me more than anything else in the world. Because it's Jefferson Market, it's the library, and to reveal beauty is always exciting to me. 7 Boy, can I be any more pretentious? But there you go. Even though reading, which is -- like I said, it's been distracting, has been amazing. And I finished "Anna Karenina", and I will--


[Crystal:] Hooray.


[Frank:] I will bore you no longer with my -- well, today--


[Crystal:] It's not boring.


[Frank:] My discussion of it and move onto another book, but I am glad I read it. I really am. What about you? Your--


[Crystal:] I'm glad that -- I'm glad that you read it too.


[Frank:] You're eating mom's cooking. You're playing with the dog. You're at your brother's.


[Crystal:] He was barking. [Inaudible] Here he goes.


[Frank:] I can't hear anything.


[Crystal:] You can't? Okay.


[Frank:] [Inaudible] down, like that system you're working with is like almost like professional grade.


[Crystal:] It must be the sound silencing or something, but the dog is barking every time a car passes. He just--


[Frank:] Can't hear the keyboard. You can't hear the dog.


[Crystal:] Good. Good.


[Frank:] Only your beautiful [inaudible] voice, my darling.


[Crystal:] Excellent.


[Frank:] [Inaudible], so you're just chillaxing [inaudible]?


[Crystal:] Technically on my vacation.


[Frank:] Is that a -- that's a painting. Is that a painting of New York behind you like above? Look up. Is that New York City, like Central Park? What is that?


[Crystal:] I don't know. I think it's weird art from thrift shops.


[Frank:] Cool.


[Crystal:] I don't decide on these things.


[Frank:] A lot of books [inaudible].


[Crystal:] It just happens. Yeah. Those are a lot of books I have brought home over the years for my brother to read. I'm trying to get him to read -- actually, my phone is propped up on it, so I can't lift it, but "Recursion" by Blake Crouch. We had the book club before. And so, we would read like the Lee Child books together. And we read "Dark Matter" by Blake Crouch together. And Recursion, I think, is his newest book. So--


[Frank:] You talked about that.


[Crystal:] Lee Child, yeah, yeah, although I never fully completed this. [Inaudible] Recursion, y'all did?


[Frank:] I feel like you did, or it sounds familiar.


[Crystal:] Maybe.


[Frank:] [Inaudible] I remember.


[Crystal:] Yeah. A lot of--


[Frank:] That's great.


[Crystal:] Sci-Fi thrillers and stuff.


[Frank:] Yeah, I know, here I am. I don't -- you know, you got to jump in. I need feedback because, I say this too all the time, like I feel like -- and I said this the last time like, all right, I read books. And I feel like maybe I'm picking them instinctively because they deal with themes that I want to read. Or I manipulate the book into the themes I want to read.


[Crystal:] This all sounds normal.


[Frank:] Or maybe I'm just reading books that have gigantic, never-ending questions, like questions of existence, like the existential question because Anna Karenina is certainly that. And you know, I -- every time I think about it, I'm like -- I feel like I'm forcing it into a language that I always use. And I'm like, am I forcing every single book I read into the same narrow framework, meaning my brain is not smart enough to actually be a little bit bigger? Do you feel like I talk about the same thing all the time?


[Crystal:] I don't think so. I think it's normal to like--


[Frank:] I want things.


[Crystal:] I mean, like we all talk about the same things all the time, in some ways. Right? But I think it's normal to want to connect to a book, and the way to do that is through your own interests. You know, like you're trying to find entry points into sometimes a lot of difficult books, and if that's your entry point, I think that's great. Right? And other topics come up as well.


[Frank:] Right.


[Crystal:] I feel the same way about the books that I read sometimes too. I'm like, am I always reading about certain topics? But that's what I'm interested in. I think it's okay to be okay with that.


[Frank:] Well, that's true. I mean, you know, in Anna Karenina there are, you know, Anna Karenina is not the main character by any means, and I can discuss possibly why it's named Anna Karenina. There are other characters you follow like, you know, at least three couples and their love, marriage, infidelities. You follow them through. And one of the main characters is Levin. The book could be called Levin. He's sort of the farmer. He has a farm. Well, he has a huge farm. Not a farmer per se but a farm owner and thinks a lot about his workers and a lot about politics. And so, in the books of the region and a lot of the book has his philosophies on farming and working with people and freeing serfs and working with skilled labor and the politics behind that. And a lot of that I sort of slightly zoned out on because, to me, politics is like a perennial thing, which usually it's slightly satirical. Like it's usually presented slightly satirically. Like look how little gets done kind of thing and that's just like the typical way of talking about politics. And even though it's not completely satirical, I mean, Tolstoy is making points, but I slightly sort of not as engaged because I'm just like, yeah. Okay, they went to a meeting, and everyone's fighting, and this side is corrupt, and that side is corrupt, and this one's doing that. And so, to your point about how you enter a book and what you engage with, I guess I become riveted and attentive when it becomes questions of existence and why we do the things we do and why we're impelled to do the things we do and how -- why we suffer, how we suffer, how we can stop suffering. And that's certainly in this book too. So, you have a point. I just don't want to be -- I want to be a little smarter than I might be to -- than to manipulate a book into the scenes I want it to be about.


[Crystal:] As you are reading these books, do you feel like you ever get closer to an answer to some of those questions?


[Frank:] All right, you just opened the door, honey. [Inaudible] because I finished Anna Karenina, and of course, I was like waiting for Tolstoy to hand me the answer to life. And he did -- he gave an answer.


[Crystal:] Okay.


[Frank:] And this is a good point too, like you said too, it's like the answer, I think, is something that's hard for me to grapple with because I don't quite understand -- I don't quite fully understand issues of faith or what faith is or religion. And actually, Tolstoy makes a deal of having grown up with faith, Christianity in this case, is an important factor in your eventual realization or epiphany that faith is all there is. And as I was talking, I realized -- because I didn't really grow up with a particular faith. Like I wasn't religiously trained, but we certainly know that just because you are doesn't mean it turns into faith as you're -- as an adult. But anyway, so Anna, you're -- as the book -- like the last two books, you know what I found out? That Tolstoy wrote Anna Karenina over a period of 4 years, and it was released in a magazine as they are like Dickens, in installments. And I was like, so people read this book over a period of 4 years. I mean, you know, you always think, you know, no wonder it's so long [inaudible].


[Crystal:] Did he -- do you know if he wrote them like each--


[Frank:] I don't know.


[Crystal:] Okay, I was going to say, like if he wrote the entire story ahead of time, and they just released it in installments.


[Frank:] I think he was -- I believe he wrote -- it wasn't pre-done [inaudible]. I think he was working on it, as a lot of them do. Because there's always a question of the end and how things end, and so go ahead.


[Crystal:] Well, it just makes me wonder with those kinds of books that are recent -- release installments, if there are reactions to reader responses and that changes the ending, ultimately? I think maybe you talked about this.


[Frank:] I did when I--


[Crystal:] Yeah.


[Frank:] We read "Great Expectations".


[Crystal:] Okay, yes.


[Frank:] And there was a lot of that there and a lot of discussion with his publishers about how he was going to end it and what he was going to do. I didn't really dig deep into Anna Karenina reviews or discussions. I wanted just to read it and see what I thought, but those of you out there can certainly do that. But so, the last two books, book seven and book eight and that completes the novel, book Seven is basically Anna's -- what Anna descends into suffering, true suffering, and you could say madness. I don't know, whatever word you want to use, which was a very effectively done and affected me more than I thought. Because like I said, for so long, in the book, Anna was just frustrated, and that kind of personality that became after her initial passion for Vronsky, she a married woman having an affair, living with her lover, and having a child with him. You know, that initial passion, time goes through that, and she's -- then just became paranoid and sort of jealous and sort of unconvinced in any way that he was -- that he loved her, that he was faithful to her. And somehow, I found reading that tiresome in some ways, like that kind of personality. And maybe it's something that hits close to home. I mean, like it's sort of -- it's -- maybe it's hard to read about someone's raw need in such an irrational way. You just want to say, he loves you. Like it's okay, like calm down. But I was thinking about her and that and then what eventually happens to her, and I was like she -- because she's presented, as I said, at the beginning as a very beautiful, very charming person of means, married to a much older man, but has all the prestige of the society. And she's just a lovely person everyone just sort of responds to. And then I was thinking about her personality and what happens to her, and then she meets Vronsky and resists him. But then she basically is imploded by him in a loving, sexual way. I mean, whatever you want to describe love or attraction or that intense feeling we have for another person that wants you to be with them all the time and do everything with them all the time. Whatever that is happened to her, and I think she did not have a developed personality. She didn't have a fixed personality. She didn't have a personality that was rooted in -- somewhere in her that she could rely on. She -- and she probably didn't even know this. She didn't know this. She was beautiful, so her beauty and her charm sort of carried her far. And I think she had glimmers of the fact that that's what she had most of all in some ways. There are passages which are some of the most revealing about Anna Karenina that -- and some of the only things that you know about her. That she's conscious of her beauty and conscious of her power to manipulate a man to sort of find her beguiling and fall in love with her. She says that at one point about Levin. She's talking to him and she's like, I could make him fall in love with me. And it's sort of a horrible thing in a way, but it's her power. And I don't think there's a personality behind that. I don't think she knew that because she was very well protected by her societal position. Once she -- the door opened with Vronsky and her passion was let out, that's where the test of personality comes in. Does she have a foundation to manage that passion or to navigate it successfully? And I think she didn't do, and that's why she -- and I talked before, that she -- it was almost like she was possessed. And she's called demonic and sometimes -- and the only other -- only way to put it, at least in this context of this book, is that she became possessed by this. And she had no other alternative but to follow it. She became addicted to that emotion that Vronsky brought out in her, and she could not live anywhere else but in that emotion. And like I said before, when the passion evolves, it doesn't stay that intense. So, she cannot live without that intensity. And she, therefore, casts about for reasons why that intensity doesn't live. And a lot of times, that kind of personality will blame the other person. Like you don't love me, basically, because she doesn't feel it either herself. Like it's changed for her, but she cannot admit it because she's so defined by this passion. It just feels too good. And so, she blames him, and she accuses him, and she can't stop doing that and she can't stop thinking about it. And she can't stop obsessing over this feeling that she needs to sustain, which is by definition unsustainable. You cannot sustain that kind of passion. And that's why the romances I love the most like "Wuthering Heights", it's like you have to die. The lovers have to die because you cannot sustain that passion, like "Romeo and Juliet". You know, what, a couple years later, they're in their early twenties, and they're like, you know what? I think we're going to part ways because it's not working for me. You can't really sustain that level of passion. Like Wuthering Heights too, like everyone has to die, or one of them has to die first and then the other one follows. So, that's her conundrum. And then from various plot machinations, she ends up at the train station to go see Vronsky one last time to try to save this relationship because he's going to visit his mother, who's a nasty piece of work, and throws herself under the train. And as she says, it's such a -- it's a very poignant, of course, melodramatic, but more than that -- I don't think -- that's it. It sounds like a pejorative. It's just -- I live in those moments like when someone's just at their wit's end. And she says -- I could go on forever about this book because there's too much in here to talk about. I'm so self-conscious about talking too much. Are you -- can you hear me?


[Crystal:] I can hear you. I just -- I -- yeah, I'm just curious as to how that leads from her trying to save her relationship with Vronsky and be like, and I'm just going to jump in front of this train?


[Frank:] Well, they have a fight.


[Crystal:] Okay.


[Frank:] They had a fight, among many fights, but the fight is, in Anna's head, you know, sort of like the worst one. And as with most fights, it doesn't really matter what it was about. It was just -- like those quarrels are just about the deeper emotion. So, he's going out of town, and she's -- you know, this is all part of the deal. Like that's part of her problem. Like he needs to be sort of independent, do his thing, and which doesn't mean being with other women. But she thinks it is, and so she follows him to try to make up for this quarrel, which she's convinced in her head -- this is where her sort of obsession is taking it's real holds, its final hold on her. She thinks it's over, like in her head, and she goes back and forth in her head. She's like, no, it's not over. This is going to be fun. And then 5 seconds later, she's like, my God, it's over. Because she has -- again, like she doesn't have that foundational personality where she can reason with herself or discuss with herself. She can only react to the emotion at hand and like a borderline situation personality. And she can only react with what's in front of her and, and whatever is -- whatever emotion is happening in her, it becomes absolute. And she can't see through it or say, calm down, just let ride this out. I'll be okay. So, she's going to try to see him to make up for it. But then in her head, she's going back and forth about whether or not it's going to work. And does that answer?


[Crystal:] Yeah.


[Frank:] So, she does do this, and then, you know, as she's falling to the train, she just says -- she says basically to God or to anyone out there like, why? Why is this happening to me? Why? Where am I? Like, you know, the classic existential question to the heavens, like where am I? What am I? Why is this happening to me? And then her last word is why? She does not know. And the next book, you pick up with Levin, and you know, he's been married to Kitty, they have a kid and his struggles with marriage and figuring out his philosophy of life with regard to his work and his love and his life. And so, Anna Karenina doesn't end with the suicide of Anna. It goes on with Levin. And it really does counterpoint Anna though, because he's going through the same thing. They both in a way have an impulse towards death. Levin, which is in the book, lives through the death of a beloved brother, Nikolai, which makes a huge impact on him. They both, Anna and Levin, think to themselves, because Anna does tussle with it, the only thing that's going to solve my suffering is death. And they both confront that in very different ways. And Levin -- and the language Tolstoy uses is very interesting with both Anna and Levin. So, as I said before, Levin, through this very interesting inner monologue, comes to faith really. He -- it's really well done. It's very -- it's not like a, you know, soap opera epiphany where he's like, I believe. He -- it's very believable, the questions he asked himself as even when he feels this epiphany, he questions himself and doesn't immediately accept even though it feels so right. So, let's see. I'll never find it, but when Anna dies, Tolstoy writes -- boy, Frank, you didn't mark your pages.


[Crystal:] You pulled a Crystal this time.


[Frank:] I pulled a Crystal. I know. And I was like so excited about this. And I thought, [inaudible] this is easy. I know, and I was like not happy with you because you were like, I had a print book, and I can't find the page. But [inaudible] the producer can edit this suffering out if they--


[Crystal:] No, leave it in, Chrissy, leave it all in.


[Frank:] [Inaudible] process, 671 is part seven. Okay, darling, let's go here. Let's move on [inaudible]. So, Anna, you know, [inaudible].


[Crystal:] No, Frank, take your time.


[Frank:] Busy yourself.


[Crystal:] I'll eat some more of my egg. [Inaudible] Now, if this was a digital copy, you could have just searched it.


[Frank:] I don't care.


[Crystal:] I just wanted to point that out.


[Frank:] I don't care. I found it [inaudible] brought that up. I found it. So, Anna says, as I said, as she's falling under the train, "And in that same instance she was horrified at what she was doing. Where am I? What am I doing? Why? She wanted to rise, to throw herself back, but something huge and implacable pushed at her head and dragged over her. Lord, forgive me for everything, she said, feeling the impossibility of any struggle. A little serf muttering to himself was working over some iron and the candle by the light of which she had been reading that book filled with anxieties, deceptions, grief, and evil flared up brighter than ever, lit up for her all that had once been in darkness, sputtered, grew dim, and went out forever."


[Crystal:] Wait, hold on. That -- the thing that dragged her, that was a physical thing or a mental thing?


[Frank:] Yeah, that's -- well, she has a dream about a -- like a peasant working over an iron. And--


[Crystal:] This is not the -- on the track. Okay, [inaudible].


[Frank:] But it is on the track. So, she's--


[Crystal:] Okay.


[Frank:] She's just having that vision of the dream, but it's the train itself that's crushing her I think. And it's basically saying that the light by which the book, being in the book of her life, of all the anxieties, evil, as the word is used, and grief, deceptions was illuminated brilliantly for the first time like meeting her -- the truth of her life, I think. And then it -- the light grew dim, sputtered, and went out forever because she was dying -- dead. And I think that's counterpointed with Levin because Levin, who comes to faith, I mean, he's talking to someone on the farm, and he just has this revelation about being good and being -- and having faith and having -- and basically -- which is an interesting argument. I'll cut this short now. He says it's -- the whole book, he's trying to reason with himself, trying to figure out truth via reason, which makes sense to me. But he says it's not reason. Like you can't come to faith through reason, or you can't come to love through reason. It's unreasonable. There -- you -- so reason is not the way you get this, but there is no explanation, really, of how you do get this. It happens to you. And maybe that's where I thought of the idea of personality because Anna -- like it -- things happened to her too, but she can't handle -- she can't go to a good place because she -- her personality cannot go there. Levin can. Why? I don't know. But I would say almost that his reasoning ability was something he had to go through to get to faith. He had to think the way he did. He had to question himself all the time as he does in order to have this revelation because Anna does not have that. Because she doesn't question herself, nor does she think of other people. She thinks only of herself, really. She doesn't even -- thinks of her kids only in a societal way and almost -- and admits a times, she doesn't love them. The son she has more of a fixation on because he's been taken from her.


[Crystal:] Okay.


[Frank:] The daughter she has with Vronsky, she says I can't love her. She's really, really about herself, and Levin thinks constantly about the people who work at his farm, his wife, Kitty, his children, like how he can make their lives better. So, that says something there. But like the light that goes out for Anna -- great. Here it is. Now I found the page. In right -- read right here, page 794, Levin's light, page 768, Anna's light, and here I was [inaudible] around the -- all right. So, I just read that quote about Anna. Now I'm going to read this quote about Levin. The word muzhik is like a word for peasant or serf or -- it's not a slave.


[Crystal:] How do you spell it?


[Frank:] M-U-Z-H-I-K.


[Crystal:] H-I-K.


[Frank:] Yeah.


[Crystal:] Okay.


[Frank:] Well, I -- yeah, it's like the peasant class I guess you could call it. So, all right, here's the actually the part where he feels the revelation. And then I will leave you forever, and Anna Karenina with -- all right. So, then he's talking to this muzhik, and they're talking about the people in the farm. And the muzhik says to Levin, people, basically, you know, that guy, he fills his belly. He lives to eat. He lives to eat and get through another day. He says, but that guy, you know, lives for God, lives for truth lives, for something good. And he's about to say to Levin, like you, like you. I see this in you. And Levin questions him immediately. Like what do you mean? What do you mean by that? And he goes, well, that's how it is. People are different. One man just lives for his own needs, just stuffs his belly. But other men are upright live for the soul and remember God. And then Levin says, "How's that, remembers God, lives for the soul, Levin almost shouted. Everybody knows how, by the truth, by God's way people are different. Now take you even, you wouldn't offend anybody either. Yes, yes. Goodbye, said Levin, breathless excitement and turning he took a stick and quickly walked off towards home. A new joyful feeling came over him at the muzhik's words about living for the soul, by the truth, by God's way. It was as if a host of vague but important thoughts bursts from some locked up place and all rushing toward the same goal whirled through his head, blinding him with their light." So, his light was revealed to him, and Anna's light was snuffed out, the end. Have fun reading 100 pages.


[Crystal:] No, this does actually remind me that in our last podcast at the end, after we stopped recording, we did talk a little bit about like the idea of slow reading. So, I want to hear more about like your feelings or the process of you reading this like very long book over kind of a prolonged period of time. I don't know if you have any thoughts about that.


[Frank:] Yeah, I mean, the usual thing about concentration, I don't -- like people say of our attention spans and all that. I think I have -- personally, I definitely have an issue. And I don't think I'm unique here, but like an issue with I have to understand everything. And everything I feel like an author writes has meaning, an intentional meaning. And what is that meaning? And then, at the end of book, what does it all mean? What is the author trying to say? And that's tough, and so sometimes I get pulled out of actually just reading the book and get conscious of, what does it all mean? And I get sort of anxious about I'm not understanding and just letting it -- just letting it happen. And then, you know, I hate the idea of thinking, well, there's 400 more pages, you know, which is a terrible thing to think. But sometimes I did, sometimes I didn't. I mean, let's put it this way, as you might imagine, for all the trouble, and also, it's personality driven all these anxiety or, you know, doubts about reading period, it's like it's the only game in town for me.


[Crystal:] What do you mean?


[Frank:] Meaning when I'm reading a book more than any other experience, like watching or whatever and I finally connect with that book in some way or feel like I do, it's unlike any other feeling. I know. So, it matters, and it just matters. I'm excited by understanding. I'm excited by -- I mean, I'm excited by a lot of things. We've got -- like you said slow reading for a long book, it's like almost doesn't matter, long, short. But I guess the practicality is that if it is long, it -- you know, we talk about it that way. I don't know, I wish I had better focus. I keep saying this all the time. And I do -- to be honest, like I do feel like maybe just like Anna or some people. Like I feel like I know my issues, but sometimes I just don't want to deal with them. Like when I say I want more focus like, you know, that means I have a certain responsibility. It's not just like -- well, actually, I was going to say it's not like something that happens to you. But then in a way this book is saying it is something that happens to you. And you just -- because like I said, that faith, that revelation Levin had is he didn't so-called work for it. He -- it was -- it happened to him after long struggles and philosophical discussions with himself. He is relating it to childhood though, like the childhood teachings of Christianity. And maybe there's something in that, that childhood thing that we could go back to so like focus. Like, you know, when you're little like, you could draw in the sand for like 2 hours and be completely absorbed by it.


[Crystal:] Yeah.


[Frank:] Because as we get older, we get more distracted. I didn't really answer your question, but that's the best I can do right now. Boy -- what?


[Crystal:] No. I don't know if I'm oversharing, but it just reminded me of that whole thing of like when you were young, drawing in the sand. When I was young, I didn't play with Barbies. I had like push pins. I would dress up with toilet paper. I don't know. [Inaudible]--


[Frank:] [Inaudible] information, that's just the beginning. Push pins, dressed up in toilet paper [inaudible].


[Crystal:] I just felt like when I was young, my imagination was so robust that I could like have these elaborate stories using office supplies, and I was entertained for hours, but anyways.


[Frank:] Yeah, I mean, it's also I knew -- well, that's part of it. But also, I mean, Tolstoy was saying that it's something that we were told and -- like about Christianity or belief or faith as kids. But yet it's not an in-collocation, like an education thing. It's almost like a imparting of the only thing that matters. I think. I'm -- it's a little fuzzy. Anyway, I should stop talking about this. What did you read?


[Crystal:] [Inaudible] I feel like I could like revisit more of the stuff that you said. But I will say like I really like the idea -- just talking about like reading and that kind of deep connection with it. I do want to ask you if you ever feel that with listening to music. Like I understand that feeling of like reading being the thing to go to over like television and movies. I totally agree with that. I feel like sometimes music does that too in a unarticulated way. I don't know. [Inaudible] a little grayer, but, yeah, you know?


[Frank:] Music was so important when I was younger. Like it was almost like the soundtrack to my hopes and dreams.


[Crystal:] Yeah.


[Frank:] It was sort of like the beat of your blood pumping and like coming to fruition. And reading when I was much younger than that and now, like sort of is more important in a way because music to me is like is that a soundtrack to like the future? I can't really listen -- it's interesting. It's more about aspirations than getting lost in it in a way. We should have a 6-hour podcast one day, just to see what happens.


[Crystal:] We can have a podcast retreat and just talk about all our feelings.


[Frank:] I thought about this, when we meet in person again it's like very different when you look in someone's face and pick up social cues and stuff like that and try to -- and then stop talking, basically. You don't have to talk about any book you read. We can just sign off now.


[Crystal:] Sometimes I want that, but no, I will briefly bring up -- it's going to lead to the book that I read in a circuitous way, maybe. Right? I did read like a few books. I've been on vacation, but I didn't really feel like talking about them so much. But I'm going to bring up that NYPL -- maybe you want to describe it more? I think you're better at describing, but NYPL is doing this Books for All, right, I want to say partnership. It's with a bunch of different publishers; I forget which ones in particular. It was like all mentioned [inaudible]--


[Frank:] I think [inaudible] is one, Scholastic.


[Crystal:] Yes.


[Frank:] That shit.


[Crystal:] Yes. And with that, essentially, these commonly banned books, recently banned books will be available for checkout, I think through Simply E. And they will be like always available, so they're not going to require like a line or any wait. Right? And I kind of really appreciate that, and some of the titles that they have is "Speak" by Laurie Halse Anderson, which is like a great one. I read the book. I read the graphic novel that was based on the book. I watched the movie, all great. "Stamped" by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi, which is based on like "Stamp of Beginning", which is an adult book, "Catcher in the Rye", "King and Dragonflies". Anyways, but thinking about that -- of sort of the banned books trends -- I mean, it's always been kind of happening, but it certainly seems like it's been ramping up a lot. Right? It brought to mind like something that happened prior like last year. I was chairing this committee for YALSA. And YALSA is like a division of ALA, which is the American Library Association. YALSA like the young adult division of it. And in the committee, we were doing like graphic novels. Right? We select a list usually of like 100 titles of really great graphic novels for teenagers. We release the list, all that kind of stuff, but this was my second year chairing it. And our list got picked up by this I want to say like really kind of conservative, right-wing website, which I don't even remember the name of, which I probably wouldn't even say if I did remember name of because I wouldn't want them to get any clicks. And they essentially described our list in a way that was very like unfair, but the gist of it -- my interpretation of it was like we were purveyors of porn or something. And they were naming all of these books that were -- like "Gender Queer", which is a fantastic book, lots of comics that essentially featured characters or people if they were memoirs, nonfiction, that were -- that had different gender identities, different gender expressions. They had different sexualities. Right? And they were categorizing these books as really like harmful to kids, which they are not. Right? In fact, they actually reflect reality of what kids experience, teens experience, right, and should be, I think, like required readings. Like Gender Queer is like a really important book. Right?


[Frank:] You know, can I jump in just--


[Crystal:] Of course.


[Frank:] But you know, this reminded me that like -- this whole argument about what you just talked about is so much and almost 100% about language. And I think that existence -- like talk about existence because -- and I think it makes people extremely uncomfortable because what is trying to -- what people are activating to do now is to sort of challenge language about what is a person? What is a person? And sometimes it's a resistance to even categorize, and then the world sort of says, well, we need to categorize. Like human beings seem to just need to categorize. But then within that, then it's like, okay, a woman is this. A man is this, and the idea of changing the definitions, changing the language, is just too terrifying for some people. And I think it is fear. I think it's absolute fear because it's so destabilizing. It's basically undermining what existence is, and that -- what people seem to want to rely on. It's a challenge to language. Like I always say, look, we have human experience and the language that describes it. And people are now saying, well, this word now means this to me. And everyone's like, you can't do that. You can't change that meaning.


[Crystal:] I agree with and I like the way you describe it as this kind of personal destabilization, destabilizing, or whatever. And I do wonder how much of it is a part of it, where because these things are changing around you, maybe you have to have some self-reflection and like look at your own self and your own life and -- you know, and I think people feel very challenged by that.


[Frank:] I mean, like -- you know, exactly like what -- black people at one point were not considered full human beings.


[Crystal:] Yeah.


[Frank:] They were three-fifths a human. At one point, gay people was considered a psychiatric disorder.


[Crystal:] Yep.


[Frank:] This is language.


[Crystal:] And yeah, so--


[Frank:] It's language describing a person's behavior and identity, and now we don't believe those things anymore. Language has changed.


[Crystal:] Yeah, and libraries were a big part of -- libraries were a big part of that like in terms of how LGBTQ books were classified. It was under sexual deviance as a classification, right, and that's clearly wrong and same thing for a lot of like people of color. Well, yeah, I totally agree with that statement. I feel like -- I don't know. I just like [inaudible] serious conversation [inaudible] very serious, which is very like not -- my book isn't that serious. But I will agree with that because I think it's -- even in that -- I'm going to say article with quotation marks. Was it an article? I don't know what it was. Even then, you know, they included a book like "Superman Smashes the Klan" by Gene Yang, which is the comic book, right, a DC comic book. And in that book, none of the characters were actually talking about gender expression or sexuality. It was in fact, people of color banded together with other white people to take down the Klan. So, to me like that -- inclusion of that book also clearly said to me that the problem is not what you're saying is explicit content or all that kind of stuff. The problem is, people's rights like exist, in some ways somehow challenges your own feelings or your own perception of the world. And anyways, all that is to say that that was like on my mind. And also, I think -- also the recent stuff that happened in New York and everything, which I know will be on like a bit of a delay when it actually goes out. But I wanted to choose a book that was kind of joyful and featured a queer protagonist. And that book that I chose -- and this is like a book that is kind of in my back list. I'd read a bit ago or maybe earlier this year, but it's called "Chef's Kiss". It's from Oni Press. It is by Jarrett Melendez, Danica Brine, Hank Jones, Hassan Osman Elhowe [phonetic]. And it is a comic book that features a character, Ben, who I think has just graduated from college. And he wants to be like a writer. He wants to -- I think maybe like go into publishing or some related field, but then kind of falls into this job where he works for restaurants in is like a chef's assistant. And then through that experience kind of decides that he maybe like enjoys this, and maybe there are these pressures of his parental expectations that maybe he's like defying and he also finds a romance with another -- I want to say chefs assistant but I'm sure I'm not using the correct terminology and hierarchy. I'm sure people who work in restaurants are like, no, this is not correct, of Liam. Right? I thought this was like a really fun book, like a really great book for, I would say, teens. This is very much a new adult book, like dealing with issues in the post-college 20-year-old age range. But that idea of like being faced with parental expectations, but then maybe deviating from the expected path and finding your own path and actually figuring out like what you like in the world and want to be. I think it's really relatable to teens and also to adults. I think a lot of people now are experiencing a lot of change in their lives. There's the so-called a great resignation. People are doing a lot of different job shifts and career shifts, and I think this book is a -- it's like a really fun, kind of wholesome, humorous book that I think if you need something more like joyful and lighthearted, I would definitely recommend. There is a taste testing pig named Watson, who has a great origin story. [Inaudible], yes. Basically--


[Frank:] That's so cute.


[Crystal:] The head chef only kind of accepts them after he makes a dish where Watson the pig thoroughly enjoys the -- that's how he gets like into the restaurant is--


[Frank:] You know that the working title for Anna Karenina was Watson the Taste Testing Pig.


[Crystal:] I can only imagine. But no, there is a whole really fun -- when the chef -- the head chef, Davis, who's kind of like this Gordon Ramsay-ish type character I think, tells Watson's origin story, it's actually really hilarious. So, I would recommend it on that almost alone, but in the vein of that I want to recommend like a few other -- just like really quickly named a few other like comics. [Inaudible] this word -- there's a curse word in it, so I'm going to say it, and Chrissy, you can bleep the curse word. But it's "Real Hero Shit" by Kendra Wells. That was another recent one that came out. "Heartstopper" series by Alice Oseman, which I think a show on Netflix is coming out. "Nimona" by ND Stephenson, which I think is also going to be a animated Netflix show. "Cheer Up: Love and Pom Poms" by Crystal Frasier [inaudible] that came out I think last year. It was really fantastic. And "Squad" by Maggie Tokuda-Hall and Lisa Sterle, which deals with werewolves and smashing the patriarchy, and I think that was also really fantastic. So, yeah, those are kind of my recommendations of really [inaudible]--


[Frank:] Recommendations for joy.


[Crystal:] Yeah.


[Frank:] When you say comics, are they all graphic -- they're not all graphic novels?


[Crystal:] All the ones I recommended are comics that deal with love, queer relationships, and just have like I think a sense of like fun to them.


[Frank:] Yeah, I what I always think I should read more of. Okay. Seek out the joy.


[Crystal:] Comics? Yeah. I was thinking about that a lot too, obviously, because of the shooting in Brooklyn and stuff. And I just felt like so many of the books I've been reading have been really heavy, which I -- you know, I think it's important to read as well. But I think we should take time to find some like fun books, and the other thing about Chef's Kiss, which it deals with food, and I feel like food is such a comforting element to books, television, life in general. So, yeah, I think the author actually is a -- is -- maybe works for Epicurious and contributes the "Bon Appetite". So, they feel competent that the elements are correct. I've lost Frank now.


[Frank:] I dropped the Tarot deck.


[Crystal:] Yes, Tarot.


[Frank:] Should we--


[Crystal:] Yeah, we should.


[Frank:] [Inaudible], well, I'll just say there was the card at the bottom, which I know is a scandalous card. I'll just go with this one, The Hanged Man.


[Crystal:] No. Okay.


[Frank:] Isn't that terrible?


[Crystal:] I don't know, this is [inaudible].


[Frank:] [Inaudible] very dramatic looking card, The Hanged Man.


[Crystal:] That was the one that you pulled?


[Frank:] No, I was -- I dropped the deck, and then when I picked it up and started to shuffle it, I saw at the very bottom was this card. And I was like, well, I'll go with that. It's the first one I saw.


[Crystal:] Does that count as pulling it?


[Frank:] Well, there's no rules. Are there? Is there? Let's just go with it.


[Crystal:] Was it upright?


[Frank:] Tarot officials can write in and tell us. The Hanged Man, so I have--


[Crystal:] Was it upright or--


[Frank:] It was upside down.


[Crystal:] It was?


[Frank:] Well, it means wisdom, circumspection, discernment, trial, sacrifice, intuition, divination, prophecy. Reversed means selfishness, the crowd, body politic.


[Crystal:] I don't know what that means.


[Frank:] It's a card of profound significance, but all the significance is veiled. I will say very simply, in my own heart, that it expresses the relation in one of its aspects between the divine and the universe. He who can understand that the story of his higher nature is embedded in the symbolism will receive information concerning a great awakening that is possible and will know that after the sacred mystery of death there is glorious mystery of resurrection. This is Levin [inaudible]. The gallows which he is suspended from a cross, while the figure -- there is a [inaudible] about the head of the seeming martyr. It should be noted the tree of sacrifice is living wood with leaves there on.


[Crystal:] So, the one that I'm looking at from [inaudible] Tarot says, when it's reversed--


[Frank:] Yeah.


[Crystal:] Let's see. Okay, the upright Hanged Man encourages you to pause for a moment and see things from a different perspective. Reversed, this card can show that you know you need to hit the pause button, but you are resisting it.


[Frank:] There you go.


[Crystal:] [Inaudible] fill your days with tasks and projects.


[Frank:] All right.


[Crystal:] Keeping busy and distracting yourself from the actual issue that needs your attention.


[Frank:] Totally. What did I say? What did I say 4 hours ago on this podcast?


[Crystal:] Okay, it was only -- first of all, it was only an hour ago.


[Frank:] But what did I -- do you remember?


[Crystal:] I think [inaudible]. Right?


[Frank:] No, I said I have a problem with focus and also with other things. And I said, but I don't really want to deal with it. Like I'm resisting dealing with it.


[Crystal:] Your spirit and body are asking you to slow down, but your mind keeps racing. Stop and rest before it's too late.


[Frank:] Well, when you about slow reading I really had a hard time answering you because it's like, I'm not really facing issues of my own. And that's exactly what that card is. Yeah. Before it's too late is right. I think it's too late.


[Crystal:] So, it was -- so basically I think because you dropped the cards -- you're in Jefferson Market, you dropped a card. I think Jefferson Market, the library picked that card and is trying to tell you something.


[Frank:] I know. I need balance.


[Crystal:] You need to take a pause before it's too late.


[Frank:] My life is the library, and I have nothing else. Well, thanks for listening, everybody. It's true. I know. Well, that was profound as usual.


[Crystal:] Yeah.


[Frank:] All right. Well, we're going to read. We're going to look at the list I think and discuss for the next time. Correct? Yeah.


[Crystal:] Yeah, that sounds good.


[Frank:] But we'll just read on our own 'til then. Okay.


[Crystal:] Yeah.


[Frank:] All right. Anyway, thanks, everybody, for listening and come back. Come back to us next time please.


[Narrator:] Thanks for listening to The Librarian Is In, a podcast by the New York Public Library. Don't forget to subscribe and leave a review on Apple Podcast or Google Play or send us an email at For more information about the New York Public Library, please visit We're produced by Christine Farrell, your hosts are Frank Collerius and Crystal Chen.