Literary Quote of the Month

“For poems are not, as people think, simply emotions (one has emotions early enough)—they are experiences,” … Rilke, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Memoir Monday... Running the Books by Avi Steinberg


I received Running The Books by Avi Steinberg in the mail recently and thought it would be so interesting to see how the love of books and reading itself transcends genders and circumstance to bring people together. We've all seen the importance of the prison librarian in movies such as The Shawshank Redemption, and I think even in The Birdman of Alcatraz, but this is the real thing... Here's the publishers blurb...

Avi Steinberg is stumped. After defecting from yeshiva to Harvard, he has only a senior thesis essay on Bugs Bunny to show for his effort. While his friends and classmates advance in the world, he remains stuck at a crossroads, unable to meet the lofty expectations of his Orthodox Jewish upbringing. And his romantic existence as a freelance obituary writer just isn’t cutting it. Seeking direction—and dental insurance—Steinberg takes a job as a librarian in a tough Boston prison.

The prison library counter, his new post, attracts con men, minor prophets, ghosts, and an assortment of quirky regulars searching for the perfect book and a connection to the outside world. There’s an anxious pimp who solicits Steinberg’s help in writing a memoir. A passionate gangster who dreams of hosting a cooking show titled Thug Sizzle. A disgruntled officer who instigates a major feud over a Post-it note. A doomed ex-stripper who asks Steinberg to orchestrate a reunion with her estranged son, himself an inmate. Over time, Steinberg is drawn into the accidental community of outcasts that has formed among his bookshelves — a drama he recounts with heartbreak and humor. But when the struggles of the prison library — between life and death, love and loyalty — become personal, Steinberg is forced to take sides.

Running the Books is a trenchant exploration of prison culture and an entertaining tale of one young man’s earnest attempt to find his place in the world while trying not to get fired in the process.

4 comments:

David W. Berner said...

Wow. This sounds like a wonderful book. Memoir can be tricky - you want it to be engaging and contemplative, but not insufferable.

We all have stories to tell.

I was concerned when I was trying to get my memoir - ACCIDENTAL LESSONS - published. But I kept remembering the old journalism chant -
"There are not bad stories. Just bad ways to tell them."
It worked.

Write on!
David W. Berner
www.davidwberner.com

Marie said...

I read this over the summer (I interviewed him for work) and it is FABULOUS. Get to it as soon as you can- it's terrific!

Page said...

I got a copy of that book and can't wait to read it.

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