October Events @ McWherter Library

Book Review: Milkman by Anna Burns

cover of the book Milkman

Anna Burns’s 2018 Booker Prize-winning novel Milkman is a unique account of one girl’s experience with sexual menace in a hyper specific time and location. The narrator is a teenage girl in 1970’s Northern Ireland, when the country was torn by the Troubles, a nationalist conflict that brought division and violence to the region for decades. The unnamed Irish city (possibly Belfast) and its community is revealed through her. The city is divided into sides, with paramilitaries controlling and threatening both sides based on “the right religion” or “the wrong religion,” but the issues of the conflict itself are alluded to rather than explained (check out our reference sources for that!). Community members are divided and categorized based on their rightness or wrongness related to religion, and further categorized based on their ability to (or lack thereof) to amalgamate, to weave themselves without notice into the fabric of daily town life, or be deemed “beyond-the-pales” and socially isolated. 

Our narrator, unnamed, is a daughter and sister, a maybe-girlfriend to a young mechanic, a runner, and a reader of pre-20th century literature. She is known for long-distance solo runs and for reading while walking. Her reading while walking is an issue for the community, because it isn’t possible to melt seamlessly into the fabric of the community while reading rather than, say, looking at your surroundings. She is desired by, and targeted by, a local paramilitary bruiser known as the Milkman, who finds ways to isolate her and threaten her well-being, leading her to be increasingly paranoid and anxious. This story, as relevant today in our contemporary #metoo moment, was explored with a depth not often seen in literature describing sexual assault and menace. I was most compelled at the infrequent but utterly fraught encounters between our narrator and the Milkman. 

I know next to nothing about this particular conflict and found the world-building to be fascinating, and the narrator’s voice completely unique. The issue I had with this novel was the dizzying prose that Burns builds into towering paragraphs that go for pages. Any facet of the community could be a topic for lengthy diversions from the main thread. For example, passages detailing the creation and history of a small outsider sect of feminists, the unusual media literacy of the narrator’s many sisters, and the sublime realization that sunsets contain many colors, typically invisible to the community’s myopic eye. Burns loves constructions of threes, much like the previous sentence of this review, a tactic that feels fresh at first, then increasingly meandering and stale. 

The community itself is examined for its levels of outsiderness, each member having no real name (naming conventions are also thoroughly critiqued) but for having an illness, a death, an occupation, something to separate them and name them. Some of the nicknames: maybe-boyfriend, tablets girl, Somebody McSomebody, real milkman. (For more about the naming and the not-naming, see this review at NPR.) The divergence from the central thread of the story to include many overlapping and interwoven stories felt burdensome at times. However, it was a richly-realized portrayal of the communal anxiety of life during wartime, where boundaries and hierarchies are created among people to make the inflicted boundaries of “peace-walls” more bearable. 

The voice of the narrator is specific, rich, unique to her sense of self and her community. But it also, often, felt like a vehicle for oblique references I didn’t understand. At times, I wondered if the narrator was really the voice I was reading, or if it had somehow merged, chorus-like, with the community’s. The stream of consciousness was self-conscious, and didn’t always feel like a teenage girl, even one who read 19th century novels. I can’t help but draw similarities to the stream-of-consciousness of a Virginia Woolf character, which so often switches and subsumes another voice, or group of voices. I felt very aware of the writing, and the machinations of the author (the names, the digressions, the things said in threes), and never once sank into the narrative voice of the girl. That said, the book is intellectually challenging and colorful. I do recommend it, especially if you have an interest in Ireland, the Northern Irish conflict, the life experience of teenage girls during wartime, or sunsets.

 

QuickSearch Tips & Tricks

The Libraries’ QuickSearch allows you to search a ton of library databases all at once (though, unfortunately, it can’t search all of them, so don’t give up if you can’t find what you’re looking for on QuickSearch!). QuickSearch is more robust than Google Scholar, and it shows you materials you can access as a UofM student/employee! We created a “Find and Download Full Text Articles in UofM Libraries QuickSearch” video (7 min.) to help guide you through the process, too.

Here are a few tips and tricks to make the most out of your QuickSearch experience: Continue reading

National Voter Registration Day at The Ned!

One of the greatest but most underutilized privilege we have as Americans is our right to vote. The ability to go to a local polling station and place a vote for a candidate you believe in is infinitely important. Voting is something you can do to contribute to your community, city, and country. Having your own say in who you want to represent you is invaluable, and you should take advantage of it! If you want to be registered to vote but are unsure of where to start, don’t worry.

The Ned has you covered.

If you’re on campus on September 24th, come on over to the McWherter Library. From 9am until 6pm there will be a registration table with prizes, library staff volunteers, and representatives from the Shelby County Election Commission available to answer all your questions. Unable to wander over to the library? No worries! From 1pm until 3pm we will also have a table in the University Center ready to help you register too. To make it even easier for you to become a registered voter, we will have iPads and laptops fired up and available to help you! It’s as easy as that.

If all of this sounds wonderful to you, we’re ready for and look forward to seeing you on the 24th!

Have questions? Here are some voting related resources for you:

Book Review: Washington Black by Esi Edugyan

Written by Benjamin Clanton, Government Publications:

Esi Edugyan, with the highly acclaimed novel Washington Black (one of President Obama’s favorite books of 2018!), has written a harsh but touching story of a runaway slave and his journey to find identity and his place in the world. The title character, Washington Black, or Wash as he comes to be known, is a field slave early in life on a sugar plantation in Barbados. Watched over by a female slave named Big Kit, his world is one of unceasing labor and vicious treatment at the hands of the plantation owner and overseers. Erasmus Wilde, whose family owns Faith Plantation, rules over it with brutality, displayed in his almost casual violence towards the slaves, viewing them truly as mere property. Sugar plantations were historically notorious in the Caribbean for their awful and inhumane working conditions. Therefore, it is not unrealistic that Erasmus treats his slaves in such a manner, something he explains to his brother Christopher: ‘My language cannot offend her. She has no sensibilities to offend . . . They are not the help, Titch. They are the furniture.’ Continue reading

Database Spotlight: Gale Virtual Reference Library/Gale eBooks

When starting off with a research project, where’s the first place (after class notes and lecture) you turn to for more information? I think most of us would answer “Wikipedia.” (Librarians use Wikipedia, too!) However, most instructors discourage citing Wikipedia. Luckily, you have access to many online scholarly reference collections that can be cited as background information for your project! Continue reading

Constitution Day: September 17th

Written by Benjamin Clanton and Meghan Campbell, Government Publications:

On September 17, 1787, delegates to the aptly named Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia signed the U.S. Constitution, setting in place the structure of our nation’s government that is still followed today. We here in Government Publications regularly handle documents that relate to what was adopted on that day over two hundred years ago. One of the wonderful things about the Constitution is that avenues were put in place to make additions and changes to its original form. With that in mind, we have written about a couple of Constitutional Amendments that both intrigue us and have personal meaning to us as individuals. Enjoy and have a wonderful Constitution Day!

Join us on the 2nd Floor Commons Area in McWherter Library today from 12 – 3 pm, where you can pick up a U.S. Constitution and snacks, and watch a documentary titled The Words that Built America. Continue reading

Lambuth Library News from The University of Memphis Lambuth

Written by Lisa Reilly, Lambuth Campus Librarian: 

What’s New 

graphic with a tiger and informational wordartAdditions of graphics and art have recently spruced up the Lambuth Library. The junction of two walls provided the foundation for a three-dimensional UofM tiger that greets patrons as they enter the libraryour stairwell now hosts art from the “What I Kept” and “Four Freedoms” exhibits recently highlighted on campus; and new signage directs students to our extensive collection of books and quiet study areas. 

Not only does the library look different, but we’ve been making some program updates. Last Spring, we began offering extended hours and it was so popular that we continued this Fall. The Lambuth Library is now open late on Monday through Thursday and is open on Sunday afternoons. And now, just like their main campus peers, Lambuth students may now schedule an appointment with the campus librarian for 30- or 60-minute research consultation sessions. Of course, we welcome research questions anytime we are open, but sometimes it helps to have scheduled time to sit down and discuss research challenges with a librarian! 

Upcoming Lambuth Library Events: 

September 25 from 3:30-4:30: Stress Less Workshop – Don’t let life stress you out! Attend this workshop to get tips from our Academic Support Services Counselor on managing stress. 

September 30 – October 4 (anytime during library hours): Maker Monthly Paper Pretties – Weave strips of magazine pages into functional art. Don’t have much time? Stop by to get started and take what you need to finish it later.

Resource Highlight of the Month 

Check out a robot from the library? Absolutely! The Lambuth Library has Sphero BOLTs available for checkout. These amazing little electronic balls are programmable with pieces of easy-to-use code- make them zig, zag, light up, make sounds, the possibilities are endless. Check one out, get the free app for your device and try your hand at programming!  A part of the West TN STEM Hub, these robots are perfect for student teachers and local educators who want to enhance their science, technology, engineering, and math lessons with a fun hands-on activity. 

 

Know Where to Go to Get Going

The University Libraries are here to help you at every step of your relationship with the University of Memphis. One of the best resources we provide are Research Guides designed to offer insight into resources that could be useful to you in your chosen field of study. However, you might need something a little more general to help you move forward. 

That’s why the Libraries have created Orientation Research Guides. Whether you are new to the University as an undergraduate student, are continuing your studies in Graduate School, we have an orientation guide for you. We *also* have guides for students who are studying abroad or study online. 

These guides will fill you in on the library services and resources that will be the most beneficial for where you are at, whether that is your first research paper, or you are preparing to teach your first class, or you are studying in Costa Rica or your hometown in Wisconsin. 

Check them out:

Kanopy Movie Review: Throne of Blood

Throne of Blood logoFog rolls across a desolate landscape. A chanting song gives an ominous command to the viewer: “Look upon the ruins / Of the castle of delusion.” Thus begins Akira Kurosawa’s 1957 film ‘Throne of Blood,’ a retelling of William Shakespeare’s infamous play ‘Macbeth’ set in feudal Japan. Kurosawa, considered a master of Japanese cinema and samurai films, provides a haunting portrait of ambition and the corruption of power. So, if you like murder and betrayal, prophecy and the descent into madness, this is one you should check out. Continue reading